The Environment Agency is giving up on Staithes as the issue of its murky waters is about to be passed over to Yorkshire Water:
Foolishly, Scarborough Borough Council are using the criteria that "only one in 16 people who visit the beach actually go for a swim" to have Staithes beach deselected as a 'bathing' beach. Using that same criteria could all of the Yorkshire Coast's beaches be deselected too, including Scarborough's popular North and South Bay beaches?
The Whitby Gazete reports: "Signs would be put up warning of entering the sea, and there’s a fear this could have a negative impact on tourism. But the village’s murky water woes wouldn’t be enough for the Department of Farming and Rural Affairs to de-select the beach, according to a 20 page report going before the council’s cabinet on Thursday December 18... Instead, data collected by the authority will be used as the crux for the authority’s argument to take the beach off it’s nine-strong list of designated sites across the borough... That information shows that approximately just one in 16 people who actually visit Staithes’ beach ever take the plunge in the water."
The full report to Cabinet on 17th Dec/14: states that: 'Efforts by the Yorkshire Bathing Water Partnership to mitigate the sources of pollution at Staithes using a range of measures have been unable to identify a solution that would offer a significant enough improvement in bathing water quality for it to reliably achieve the minimum standard of ‘Sufficient’ under the new standards of the revised Bathing Water Directive.'
'explained the long history of water quality issues at Staithes, the negative implications for tourism of the new Bathing Water Directive for Staithes, efforts of the Yorkshire Bathing Water Partnership to mitigate the sources of pollution and inability to identify a practical and viable solution.'
The Yorkshire Bathing Water Partnership includes :The Environment Agency, Yorkshire Water, North Yorkshire County Council, East Riding of Yorkshire Council, Scarborough Borough Council, Welcome to Yorkshire, Rural Affairs Forum. However the North York Moors National Park have been noted as being against the declassification of Staithes Beach becoming delisted.
More from the Whitby Gazette: "A council consultation found that almost three quarters of the public thought it should remain a bathing beach, with just over two-thirds not wanting the authority to apply to have it de-designated... A total of 227 people responded, although the cabinet report states a “a large number” of those who completed the survey were members of the Surfers against Sewage pressure group... And stakeholders were split, with Hinderwell Parish Council and North Yorkshire Moors National Park stating it should remain a bathing beach, while the surfing group and ward councillor John Armsby disagreeing... Yet the cabinet will be told at the meeting on December 18 the negativity surrounding keeping the beach would be too great, and an application submitted to DEFRA... If it is de-selected, the water will no longer be monitored by the Environment Agency, and instead Yorkshire Water will take over the jurisdiction."
The source of the polution has been analysed as: 'Contributing over 90 per cent to the overall amount, diffuse sources include runoff from agricultural land, septic tanks, surface water drainage and other natural sources. Five per cent of the pollution is coming from Yorkshire Water’s sewerage system... off from agricultural land is the major source, contributing around 60 to 70 per cent to the diffuse pollution found in Staithes Beck. This is typical of all farms and in that respect does not make the Staithes’ farming community stand out from any other.'
So presumably if common agricultural run off is the source then this problem is not unique, and must have occurred elsewhere?
The impact on Tourism appears to be the issue with signs saying 'Poor Water quality' to be avoided at all costs, the answer according to Scarborough Borough Coucnil is : 'Only 2.5% used the beach for swimming and 5.1% for paddling. This supports the findings of the Beach User Survey conducted in 2013 regarding low bather numbers.'
However: 'Parish Council decided that as a representative body of the local community the wishes of the people of Staithes were paramount in this matter and they supported the majority result of the Community consultation that the beach should not be de-designated.'
The report states: If livestock were removed from all the farms in the catchment, and only inorganic fertilisers applied, this would remove 70 to 80 per cent of the pollution from agriculture. However, this would still not be enough to meet the sufficient standard and the costs and consequences are incalculable.'
Further: Previous proposals to submit an application to DEFRA to de-designate the beach have met with strong local resistance and calls for works to improve the bathing water quality. The latest consultation exercise undertaken with the community and stakeholders highlights that despite the work of the Yorkshire Bathing Water Partnership since 2011, the local community, in general, do not believe that the bathing water quality cannot be improved and the majority oppose de-designation.'
Evidence highlights only a small proportion enter the bathing water and that although the beach is well used for walking etc. the beach is only a small element of the overall Staithes tourism product and is not the main reason why people visit the village. The majority visit for other reasons including arts and culture, maritime history including Captain Cook, charm and quaintness and exposure from the children’s television series Old Jack’s Boat. Visitors requiring a “beach experience” are more likely to visit other recognised beach locations in the area such as Whitby West Cliff, Redcar, Sandsend and Saltburn.'
The important bit: 'Option 2 – Controlled De-designation: - The rationale of the cost benefits of improving the bathing water in relation to low numbers of bathers can be used for submitting an application to DEFRA for de-designation of the bathing beach at Staithes. No numerical figure has been set by DEFRA for the numbers of bathers, as all bathing waters are different and one figure may not be suitable for all sites. However the Beach User Survey (2013) and the Community Consultation (2014) highlights the number of beach users who are bathers at Staiths is very small and suggests that the low bather criteria required by DEFRA for de-designation can be met. A controlled de-designation following a successful application to DEFRA for de-designation would avoid all the negative impact on Tourism of the attention drawn to Staithes from poor bathing water quality. If an application for de-designation is successful the bathing water quality will not be monitored by the Environment Agency however Yorkshire Water will still retain a responsibility for their assets and infrastructure and Scarborough Borough Council for Public Health and litter on the beach etc.'
'Implications: The decision to apply for de-designation is a change to Council policy. Cabinet may wish to consult full Council on this decision.
'Legal: Further advice from the Council’s Legal Services will be required if a decision is taken not to apply for de-designation as the Council is promoting the beach as a designated bathing beach whilst it is aware of the risk to public health from the poor water quality.'
It fails to mention the consequences of setting a precedent.
The Cabinet Resolved: that the Council as the beach controller submits an application to DEFRA (Department of Farming and Rural Affairs) to de-designate the bathing beach at Staithes based on low bather numbers and inability to identify a solution that would offer a significant enough improvement in bathing water quality for it to reliably achieve the minimum standard of ‘Sufficient’ under the new standards of the revised Bathing Water Directive (2015). The main criterion for de-designation of bathing beaches is low bather numbers (anybody swimming or paddling in the water is considered to be a bather). .. De-designation of the bathing water in a controlled manner is seen as a preferred option to negate the need for such signage and avoid the adverse effects on tourism.
PS It should be noted that the man from the Environment Agency confirmed that they had not looked at any residual impact from Boulby because it was 300 meters outside his juristriction... and they were looking at bacteria, not potash... that did not fit into current thinking:
Confirmation of Boulby's awareness to the local environment is acknowledged by the £25K Section 106 (attached to the new processing facility) specifically designated to Tourism at Staithes and, their Environmental Impact Statement: http://planning.northyorkmoors.org.uk/MVM.DMS/Planning%20Application/808...