Sunderland coast barred from Good Beach Guide over EU pollution row

People on Seaburn beach on Monday night at 5.30pm.
People on Seaburn beach on Monday night at 5.30pm.
Have your say

ONGOING legal wranglings has left beaches at Roker and Seaburn out in the cold.

The Sunderland coastline has once again been left off an influential tourism guide due to arguments over pollution which have now reached Brussels.

Bob Latimer on Whitburn Beach, concerns over sewage

Bob Latimer on Whitburn Beach, concerns over sewage

The 2012 Good Beach Guide is published today, with the Sunderland beaches absent for another year.

While a spokesman for the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), who organise the list, admitted that water quality at both beaches meets the required standards, the legal fight means the Society could not elevate them to it’s “recommended” standard.

Instead the beaches can only be awarded “guideline” status, not enough for them to make the final list.

The European Commission embarked on a test case against the UK in 2009, after evidence suggested that flood drains, or Combined Sewer Overflow pipes (CSOs), in Whitburn were depositing directly into the sea.

Dr Robert Keirle, pollution programme manager at MCS, has visited the area and told the Echo that, but for the legal battle in Brussels, both beaches would have featured in the list, which urges people to visit only those recommended by the guide.

He said: “Based on the water quality alone, they pass the standard. It is very clean water.”

He explained that the problem was the size of the samples taken by the Environment Agency.

They suggest the water is safe but because of the potential for pollution to be found in the vast stretch of water by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) the group are unable to recommend the beaches, something all concerned are finding frustrating.

“Our grading system says that if bathing water hit the standards then a top grade can be awarded.

Brussels has evidence that some discharges were affecting the water quality,” said Dr Keirle.

There is no guarantee that the beaches could receive the all clear by next year and Dr Keirle acknowledges the potential impact the situation could have on tourism in the area.

Environmental campaigner Bob Latimer, from Whitburn, says that tourism is the least of the areas concerns and the .

He said: “They shouldn’t be in any guide, I think it’s terrible to even suggest that.”

Twitter: @sunechomark