Brussels threatens legal action over UK's polluted beaches

Click to follow

Britain was last night threatened with legal action over water quality at the nation's beaches, after Brussels criticised the UK for failing to curb pollution despite having nearly 15 years to meet its targets.

Britain was last night threatened with legal action over water quality at the nation's beaches, after Brussels criticised the UK for failing to curb pollution despite having nearly 15 years to meet its targets.

The European Commission has questioned standards at 57 sites - around 10 per cent of the UK's bathing waters - although the legal moves begun yesterday are likely to centre on a smaller number of beaches.

Previous pronouncements from Brussels on water quality have singled out the beaches of the North-west for particular criticism. The 1976 Bathing Waters Directive sets out a series of binding EU standards, including mandatory levels and tougher "guide" values. In 1998 the UK hit only 88.7 per cent of its mandatory targets - which should have been met by 1985 - and 44.2 of the guide values, which countries are also expected to meet.Brussels yesterday lost patience with the UK, issuing a reasoned opinion, the first step in legal action in the European Court.

Six years ago the European Court of Justice ruled that Britain was in breach of EU law because of the state of bathing water between Blackpool and Southport.

The traditional resorts of the North-west were still falling below minimum acceptable standards, according to the most recent annual study. The west coast of Scotland at Troon and Ayr was also marked down, and one of North Yorkshire's resort spots - Staithes - was below par. But overall the report signalled a "marginal improvement" in bathing water quality around the country.

Comments