European Commission proposes to fine UK for poor state of beaches

The European Commission is referring the United Kingdom to the European Court of Justice over the state of two beaches in the North West of England, and is proposing to impose a fine of EUR 106,800 (£67,700) per day for failure to comply with the Bathing Water Directive.

Originally prosecuted in 1993 for the failure of nine bathing waters around the Fylde Coast to comply with the directive, the United Kingdom promised compliance by 1996. However, throughout the 1996 and 1997 bathing seasons, the majority of sites were continuing to fail to comply, and by the 2000 season, two bathing sites had still not reached the required standards. The proposed fine would apply to each day of non-compliance from the date of the second judgement of the court.

The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) says that it is disappointed with the Commission’s decision to proceed with the action, following the announcement in December that 95% of British beaches now comply with the Bathing Water Directive (see related story). “We are working to achieve full compliance as soon as possible,” a DETR spokesman told edie, explaining that the Government hopes the European Commission will take this into consideration. “We are continuing our massive improvement programme to ensure bathing water quality is further improved,” said the spokesman, pointing out that the programme began in the mid 1980’s with an initial funding of £275 million, quickly followed by a further £54 million. According to the DETR, the third phase, involving a £56 million investment, will be starting soon, consisting of further sewage treatment, and will include the Flyde Coast beaches.

The Commission is also initiating proceedings against Germany in the European Court of Justice for a second time concerning a 1998 ruling for the government’s failure to comply on several grounds with the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive, aimed at avoiding or mitigating environmental impacts of developments.

“It is always unfortunate when the Commission is faced with the need to apply to the Court of Justice for a second time,” said Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström. “I hope that both member states will be in a position to comply with their obligations under these two important Directives as soon as possible to avoid judgement having to be given.”

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