Fears for Burnham tourism after EU beach blacklisting threat

PUBLISHED: 18:00 17 May 2014

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CONCERNS are mounting for tourism in Burnham amid fears that visitors could be banned from swimming in the sea due to an upcoming European Union (EU) directive.

Burnham has been ranked as one of 45 beaches in the UK which could be blacklisted by the new rules, with a ban on sea swimming the harshest of a number of potential sanctions.

In a report shown to Burnham and Highbridge town councillors this week, the Environment Agency (EA) suggested that works to improve water quality would take between four and five years to implement.

The knock-on effect for the town and its tourism industry was discussed following the report’s presentation at a full council meeting on Monday, with a number of councillors expressing their concern.

Under an existing EU bathing water directive, areas falling below required standards can be hit by the introduction of warning signs or bathing prohibition.

Cllr Louise Parkin said: “Burnham, Berrow and Brean are the main attractions for the whole of Sedgemoor.

“The other towns are subservient to the seaside. I have no idea what the economic catastrophe could be.

“We don’t want to be in a situation like when they rebuilt the sea wall, where we lost family custom coming to Burnham year after year. It took seven years to get them back because they found alternatives elsewhere.”

Cllr Chris Williams said: “The news from the Environment Agency is that their budgets are being very heavily cut, which will continue for the next two or three years.

“We are making efforts to develop seaside tourism and these efforts are going to be completely cancelled out if there are warnings about going on the beach and in the water. That is not going to do anything for the socio-economic future of the town.”

Cllr Neville Jones, who delivered the report to the council, revealed that the EA had estimated the work, to include a tunnel under the River Parrett similar to the Thames Tideway, would cost in the region of £48million.

It was agreed to contact all agencies involved in the process, as well as local MEPs, to investigate what funding could be obtained from the EU and how potential issues could be addressed.

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