A packed public meeting in Combe Martin has heard how the village could lose up to a quarter of its tourism revenue if it loses its bathing water status.

More than 350 people went along to the open event organised by Combe Martin water Watch Group at the Village Hall to discuss the causes and possible solutions to the bathing water crisis.

The beach has failed testing by the Environment Agency (EA) for three years and if it fails for another two, the beach will be 'de-designated'.

This means prominent signs will be erected to say the water is not fit for bathing in and it is greatly feared this could badly damage tourism and tourist businesses in the village.

The meeting heard from Water Watch Group chairman Trevor Kibble as well as representatives from South West Water and the EA.

Mr Kibble said the general consensus from businesses was the village could lose up to 25 per cent of its visitors if the bathing water was de-designated.

He explained how following £2million investment from SWW the village now had three combined sewer overflows (CSOs) that were intended to take rainwater and sewerage and only spill into the River Umber - which flows into the sea - in extreme weather conditions.

He said instead there had been 173 spills in 2018, including 11 in the bathing season.

An EA DNA test showed that the faeces found in the bathing water was divided equally between human, dog and livestock.

Mr Kibble said: "Seventy-two kilos of dog faeces was collected volunteers in one week in central Combe martin.

"According to the EA the bacterial level in one dog faeces equals 300 human faeces. This is something everyone in the village can do something about."

The meeting heard there were multiple issues, including 'misconnections' from private properties, breaches in the wall bordering the stream and the direction of the stream on to the beach, which skewed the bathing water tests.

But the meeting also heard SWW planned to invest £1m, divided between Combe Martin and East Looe for investigation and remediation work.

A SWW spokesman said they were pleased to take part in the 'constructive' meeting.

They said: "We are committed to ensuring that our assets perform effectively, and explained to the meeting that we have a programme of investigations and improvements ahead of the 2020 bathing season.

"Although the main pollution source affecting Combe Martin is run-off from urban and agricultural land, and makes up two-thirds of the bacteria affecting the bathing water, we remain committed to working with other organisations and the local community to help improve bathing water quality as part of a team effort.

"The additional storm water storage capacity in the sewerage network and other improvements has reduced the number of storm water overflows into the River Umber during wet weather within the bathing season.

"These storm water overflows are operating in line with their permits and are not the cause of Combe Martin's 'poor' bathing water quality classification."

The meeting concluded there were several parts to the puzzle, including working with farmers to reduce run off from livestock waste, and for residents to check their own septic tanks and plumbing to ensure nothing was amiss.

SWW is also teaming up with OTA Water to trail a 'smart' rainwater butt scheme in the village.