Bathing status to be removed from Ilfracombe beach?

Councils to consider whether Wildersmouth can live with tough new EU standards

COUNCILLORS are considering whether to remove the bathing status from Ilfracombe’s Wildersmouth Beach in the face of strict new European standards.

The town council is contemplating the move because under the new 2015 EU Directive the beach could end up rated “poor” and it would have to erect signs saying the water was unfit to swim in.

Under the new rules an “excellent” rating would be double the current standard and as a town centre beach Wildersmouth and its stream is affected by agricultural run off, old Victorian sewage pipes and the number of dogs and birds.

Owner North Devon Council has asked the town council for its recommendation on whether to apply to Defra for removal of the designated bathing status and the matter will be discussed at the next planning meeting on Monday.

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At the last planning meeting councillors heard from Environment Agency officers how, of the two town beaches, Wildersmouth was likely to be classified as “poor” while Hele Bay would meet the criteria for “sufficient.”

The bathing designation depends on how many people use the beach to swim and an Environment Agency survey in August showed minimum usage, but additional data may be needed if de-designation were to be successful.

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Town clerk Pauline Williams said it was early days and the council was considering whether Wildersmouth ought to be classed as a bathing beach at all, or whether by working with other agencies there were ways to improve it.

“We are not stopping people using the beach in any way whatsoever,” she said, “but if it did not meet the Defra criteria it wouldn’t have to be judged as a bathing beach.”

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