South West Water commit to improving Paignton bathing water quality. Kevin meets with SWW to discuss their £27m investment into storm overflow reduction in Torbay between 2025-2030.
Bathing water quality is vitally important for Torbay, especially given the popularity of water sports and sea-swimming for both residents and tourists. This is an issue Torbay MP Kevin Foster has done considerable work on since being elected in 2015. This includes seeing the completion of a major project at Torre Abbey Sands to ensure our bay met the tougher legal bathing water standards which came into place following his election. These standards remain in place and overall Torbay’s bathing waters are some of the best in Europe.
The majority of beaches in Torbay have outstanding bathing water quality, with 11 of the 15 registered beaches in The English Rivera classified as ‘excellent’ for water quality in 2023, yet with Goodrington rated as “Sufficient” there is need for further work to get all our beaches to Good, then Excellent. Information on the 2023 classification of bathing waters in Torbay can be found here: https://www.tor-bay-harbour.co.uk/leisure/beaches-and-coastline/water-quality/
For a greater understanding of the issues at Goodrington, and to discuss South West Water’s plan to reduce storm overflow discharges across the Bay, Kevin met with their Chief Operating Officer at Goodrington Beach in December to discuss water quality across Torbay.
At the end of the meeting SWW committed to ensuring Goodrington and Paignton Beaches (Currently rated Good) have ‘excellent’ water quality ratings by 2030.
Kevin outlines below the work planned following his engagement with South West Water at each of the key beaches in the bay where issues have been raised with him by residents:
Goodrington was selected for the recent meeting as the only beach in Torbay with a ‘sufficient’ rating of bathing water quality, this is determined by the Environment Agency. All other beaches in Torbay hold a ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ water quality rating.
During my recent meeting, SWW recognised the popularity of bathing at Goodrington and the need to improve its water quality rating, with me pushing them for a target of the water quality being rated “Excellent” by 20230. SWW will therefore be investing £6m by 2030 into improvements in their infrastructure near to Goodrington and Paignton Sands. Whilst this work alone will not see Goodrington’s bathing water quality increase to ‘excellent’, it will provide improvement and reduce the chance of overflows further.
Increasing the rating to “excellent” will mean dealing with the issue which significantly impacts water quality at Goodrington, drainage off the surrounding land, including litter and animal\bird waste. During periods of heavy rainfall pollutants on land are washed into the sea, for example litter, plus dog and seagull faeces. This is a different picture to what may be painted by some in terms of what action is needed to improve water quality who often focus on only one issue.
I am pleased following our discussion SWW will be working with Torbay Council to identify ways in which the issue of land drainage can be improved, for example through providing bins for dog waste (To reduce the amount being washed into the sea). This is not just pollutants located near to or on the beach, but throughout the catchment area, for example dog faeces left near Clennon lakes can impact the water quality at Goodrington. This is because during periods of heavy rainfall pollutants like dog poo are washed into the Clennon stream which then meets the sea at Goodrington (The large pipe on the beach is the stream flowing out, not a sewer). I was also joined by Goodrington Cllr John Fellows at the meeting. He is a keen campaigner for the local environment and is taking these points back to Torbay Council as a focus.
Following some questioning from Cllr Fellows and Myself about how SWW could be so certain of the sources of water quality issues and how suggested actions will produce an “Excellent” water quality, SWW discussed their testing program which identifies specific pollutants. This testing will be conducted at Goodrington and can identify what pollutants are caused by human activity and which are naturally occurring, eg mud and wild animal waste, this will then be used to target the human impact.
As a result of the meeting at Goodrington with Kevin, SWW committed to ensuring Goodrington and Paignton Beaches (Currently rated Good) have ‘excellent’ water quality by 2030.
Paignton Sands holds a ‘good’ bathing water classification.
A contributing factor to poor water quality has been identified as an overflow at the Clennon Valley Pumping station. Due to the impact on bathing water quality this overflow has been identified for spill reduction by 2030.
SWW have set aside £6m to invest in improvements to Clennon Valley pumping station storm overflow by 2030, which also benefits Goodrington Sands.
Preston Sands has held an ‘Excellent’ bathing water classification since 2018.
Whilst samples have identified non-SWW samples account for most pollutants in the bathing water, it was identified the ‘Preston Green Tank overflow’ does contribute. This overflow has been identified for overflow reduction by 2030.
In addition to the Clennon Valley pumping station, SWW have set aside £1.8m to invest in improvements to Preston Green tank overflow by 2030.
Torre Abbey Sands
Torre Abbey has had an ‘Excellent’ Bathing Water classification since 2018.
Bathing Water improvements were completed in 2015, in which SWW installed a large shaft in Abbey Gardens, providing 2000m3 of storm water storage. This project also installed 360m3 at Cockington Lane pumping station, improving the overflow discharges here too. This has improved storm discharges from the associated overflows.
Overflows do still occur at the Old Mill Road storm overflow, which impacts bathing water around Torre Abbey Sands. SWW have set aside £1.8m to invest in improving this overflow by 2030.
Meadfoot has held an ‘Excellent’ bathing water classification since 2018. Despite some misleading claims there is not a storm overflow located at Meadfoot Beach.
The storm overflow which creates alerts attributed to ‘Meadfoot’ is at Hope’s Nose, 1.4km away from the Beach. Hope’s Nose was retained as an emergency outlet for the sewer system when the Brokenbury Treatment Plant opened two decades ago. The outlet is not at Meadfoot itself, although the Ilsham Valley Pumping Station is next to the beach and is where alerts for Hope’s Nose are produced from.
Hope’s Nose was previously the main crude untreated outfall of the Victorian sewage system, being picked at the time for its location as most often currents and tidal flow carry wastewater away from our bay’s beaches. Hope’s Nose was retained as the outfall for Brokenbury for the same reason, overflows at other locations are much closer to beaches and could have a greater impact. Recent studies show there are very few instances of a combination of currents, winds and tides which would cause any impact to bathing waters at Meadfoot from use of the outlet at Hope’s Nose.
For this reason, Kevin has suggested the outlet location be renamed ‘Hope’s Nose’ rather than ‘Meadfoot’, which is misleading and resulting in false claims being made. Any alerts for discharge “at Meadfoot’ are actually occurring at Hope’s Nose and unlikely to impact Meadfoot’s water quality.
SWW will continue to keep the frequency of discharges at Hope’s Nose under review. Investment throughout their infrastructure in Torbay, outlined above, will reduce the amount of water entering the system, improving storm capacity and reducing spills at Hope’s Nose.
Water Quality Alerts
One issue raised by the Tor Bay Harbour Authority are the alerts produced by the Environment Agency (EA) based on the data from the monitors.
The Harbour Authority is actively liaising with the EA to ensure any reduction to swimming water quality should be more clearly defined, rather than it being referred to as pollution at every event. Often alerts relate to rainfall run off, rather than a discharge of human waste. Yet due to a similar alert being created for both issues it is often described as being the later in commentary by a national campaign group, which incorrectly labels all such alerts as sewage discharges.
Accurate and real time information about beaches in our bay is available on SWW’s Waterfit Website. This includes details of alerts relating to issues with water quality, where the outlet concerned is located and how long the most recent alert lasted. You can find it by following this link: