A small village in North Devon with a population of less than 4,000 has turned a failing beach into one of the success stories of the South West.

With a new season looming, that is the message from the Combe Martin Clean Bathing Water Group and Save Our Beach campaign, which is keen to highlight the millions spent improving water quality.

South West Water has just completed a £2million sewerage scheme and thousands has been spent by the Environment Agency on livestock fencing.

Trevor Kibble, chairman of the group, said at the end of last year’s bathing season the water quality was excellent, even before the improvement scheme was finished.

But there is concern it will be labelled ‘poor’ in this year’s Good Beach Guide, harming tourism.

Mr Kibble said this was because of currently published Environment Agency predictions for poor water, due to the way data is based on the previous four years.

“We don’t want negative publicity on predicted poor water,” he said.

“These were all based on this four year assumption, but the guide is the main one everyone uses.”

An EA spokesman told the Gazette: “Water quality at Combe Martin over the last two years has been much improved. If we can maintain this, the bathing water result will be ‘sufficient’ or even ‘good’ in 2015.”

He said some information quoted was collated in 2011.

Combe Martin passed the guideline standard in 2014 and was not on a list of ‘at risk’ beaches.

The EA testing begins for the season on May 15, and this year sees new tougher European bathing water directives also come into force.

The Marine Conservation Society publishes the Good Beach Guide, but said it could not comment as the new guide would not be released until May. It said it would soon release information on the criteria it would use this year.