Include Wardie Bay, Edinburgh in Scotland’s list of designated Bathing Waters
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In 2019, the Wild Ones wild swimmers and Wardie Bay Beachwatch applied to SEPA for designated Bathing Water status for Wardie Bay, situated between Granton and Newhaven Harbours. We provided evidence of beach usage levels of over 150 people a day across the bathing season but the application was rejected, ironically by the current Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform. Please read the feedback from Roseanna Cunningham and SEPA at the foot of this petition.
Wild swimming continued unabated over the winter. Now in 2020, as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak, awareness, demand for local outdoor activity and people flow has risen exponentially. Consequently, the need for public health support has increased.
Vicky Allan, member of the Wild Ones, and co-author of Taking the Plunge said:
“Through this pandemic year, the numbers coming to Wardie Beach to swim have risen massively and it has already become a thriving hub for the local wild swimming community, as well as others who just like a dip in summer. It has started to feel like a resort, buzzing with a regular flow of people – swimming in a socially distanced way when rules have required it – as more and more people recognise the health and mental health benefits of wild swimming. The locals have effectively already designated it a Bathing Water beach. Many of them, though, do say that though they love the beach, their one concern is that they don't have any information about the water quality.”
We believe that the Scottish Government’s short-sighted judgement needs fundamental reconsideration. The community does everything it can to look after and protect this special site; from monitoring, recording and removing beach pollution to working proactively with present landowners and other stakeholders for long term management solutions, so far compromised by a patchwork of private and absentee ownership. The City of Edinburgh Council owns land at the entrance to the beach, where one large general waste bin is maintained.
We raised numerous public safety concerns in our application, such as the presence of sharp objects and potentially contaminated material. Wardie Bay Beachwatch has recorded, over 17 Marine Conservation Society surveys since March 2017, an average of 30% of the litter within this 100m transect to be sewage related debris. The highest percentage, 54%, was recorded on 30th March 2019 after the ‘Beast from the East’. We do not believe that the community should be penalised for a lack of existing infrastructure and protection from these harms. In fact, we believe the dangers to be the reason to make progressive improvements to this well loved and valuable blue space, which provides such a rich source of wellbeing for the community.
Wardie Bay’s visitors include many children and adults from a diverse constituency, many of whom have no outdoor space at home: wild swimmers, walkers, runners, volunteers, citizen scientists, naturalists, paddleboarders, kayakers, sailors, rowers, sea cadets, and fishers taking nourishment home for their families. Newcomers as well as regulars and neighbours have found new joy in the water and many have discovered new educational benefits at Wardie Bay via the rich biodiversity in rockpools adjacent to the beach.
This important shoreline habitat has SSSI, SPA and Ramsar status, and is blessed with resilient biodiversity, including Harbour Seals, rare migratory seabirds such as Knots, and a rich Kelp bed brimming with life.
A Designated Bathing Water profile would be a holistic investment for both our environment and society. It would result in Wardie Bay receiving:
- water quality monitoring from 15 May to 15 September with sampling results published online;
- daily water quality predictions available on the SEPA website and potentially via an electronic sign;
- information on potential pollution sources and risks to water quality;
- descriptions of measures being taken to improve water quality;
- information on reporting and responding to any pollution incidents; and
- local contact details for sources of further information.
We are seeking endorsements from landowners to enhance our second round application, but as a true community led beach, we would value the support of our wider community much more.
Please sign our petition to see greater protection for Wardie Bay.
With grateful thanks
Feedback from SEPA stated that:
“In March 2020… the Panel, having considered the submissions and information provided, had mixed views about recommending designation of Wardie Bay, due to public safety issues and a lack of facilities, as a Bathing Water protected area under the Bathing Waters (Scotland) Regulations 2008. Some members however cited designation as an opportunity to help drive further investment in facilities, perceived as part of the rationale for the bathing water review process… As such the review panel did not reject the application; the decision not to designate was made by the Scottish Government.”
A letter from Roseanna Cunningham offered the following feedback:
“The core aim of the Bathing Waters (Scotland) Regulations 2008 is to protect public health. If a large number of bathers regularly use a bathing water and there is appropriate infrastructure or facilities provided, there is a strong case for designation.
The Bathing Water Designation Panel considers applications for new designations as bathing waters, and makes recommendations to Scottish Ministers. New applications are assessed annually by this Panel, chaired by SEPA, and whose membership consists of: SEPA, Scottish Water, Keep Scotland Beautiful, Marine Conservation Society, Society of Chief Officers of Environmental Health, Scottish Natural Heritage, and Visit Scotland.
In the case of the Wardie Bay application the panel did not make a recommendation to designate Wardie Bay as a Bathing Water due to a number of issues highlighted within the application. These issues concerned matters around public safety, land ownership, Edinburgh City Council access, and the lack of facilities available for bathers such as toilets and litter bins.”
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