A LYME Regis beach is severely at risk of failing tough new standards for water quality, the Environment Agency has warned.

The news comes after the agency recently launched its summer monitoring programme, which said that around 40 beaches around England are ‘on track to fail’ if action is not taken to tackle pollution ending up in the sea.

From next year, more stringent European Union regulations will be brought in for bathing spots around England, and if beaches fail on water quality standards under the new rules, local authorities will have to display a sign advising against swimming.

In England, beaches at risk include Lyme Regis Church Cliff beach, Scarborough South Bay, Southend Jubilee beach, Ilfracombe Wildersmouth and beaches at Blackpool, Morecambe and Walney.

Back in April, Church Cliff Beach was ranked ‘mandatory’ in this year’s Good Beach Guide after it failed the list last year.

The popular beach still faces the threat of de-designation if it is categorised as poor in 2015.

South West Water, which worked with Lyme Regis Town Council and the Environment Agency to help improve the water quality, pledged in November last year to spend another £500,000 in Lyme Regis to improve its infrastructure over the next 18 months.

Lyme Regis town councillor, Mark Gage, told the Lyme Regis News: “At this point in time we do not expect Church Cliff beach to fail in the near future.

“The Town Council has met with representatives of South West Water, the Environment Agency and West Dorset District Council in the last month to continue to look at all the actions that can be taken, not only for Church Cliff beach but all the beaches in the town.

“We were very reassured by the South West Water investment which we believe will do a lot to improve the water quality and protecting the standards of that beach.”

More than 400 beaches will be tested weekly between now and September, with a total of 8,400 samples taken.

Nine out of 10 swimming spots were already meeting the new standards, but there were still areas where pollution was a problem; caused by agricultural run-off, sewage overflows, animal and bird faeces on beaches and households and businesses with badly connected drains, the agency said.

'Important parts to play'

Paul Hickey, deputy director of water quality at the Environment Agency, said: ''The seaside economy in England is worth around £3.6 billion a year - and every improvement in bathing water quality helps to protect that.

''With one year to go until the new EU standards come into effect, we are focusing efforts on the small number of problem sites to bring them up to standard.

''Meeting tough new water quality targets has been a huge challenge, and local authorities, water companies, farmers, homeowners and businesses all have important parts to play in protecting and improving bathing water quality at the remaining beaches that are not yet up to scratch.''