Sensible and proportional Bathing Water Directive set to become law within two years

Conservative MEPs succeed in keeping UK water bills down and protecting tourism

Strasbourg, 18th January 2006 -- Updated EU rules regulating the quality of bathing water will no longer pose a threat to the British tourist industry or push water bills through the roof, Sir Robert Atkins MEP, has said today after the European Parliament gave its final approval to the directive.

The directive simplifies and updates existing legislation from 1976. Some MEPs, mainly from the Green Group had attempted to extend the scope of the directive to include vast swathes of sea, rivers and lakes which would be used only for recreational purposes such as windsurfing and canoeing. The costs of testing these recreational waters would have been passed down to consumers through much higher water bills.

Bathing water will now be ranked in three categories of cleanliness – ‘excellent’, ‘good’ and ‘sufficient’. Conservative MEPs fought off an attempt to delete the ‘sufficient’ category from the directive. This would have caused a number of UK beaches to fail to meet the ‘good’ standard despite being safe for bathers. The beaches could have subsequently lost their blue flag status with a notable impact on tourist revenues for the area.

Sir Robert said:

“The European Parliament’s vote today means that further astronomical water bill rises in Britain have been avoided and damaging downgrades in bathing beach quality designations are off the agenda.

“The directive we have helped negotiate with EU Ministers is sensible and proportional. We need clean beaches in the UK but we can do so at a reasonable cost. Water companies have already spent billions of pounds cleaning our beaches and standards are much better. However, we must remember that the majority of people use our beaches only a few times each year and it is not sensible to ask everyone to suffer increases in their water bills to pay for an unnecessary army of recreational water inspectors.”

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