MP Caroline Ansell is to set up a summit between Eastbourne sea swimmers and local stakeholders after she raised concerns about water quality off the town in parliament.

Caroline met with the group on a bracing day recently. She was told they would like a revision of the beachfront code of conduct and for the authorities to look at the impact of housing development on the sewage system. 

The issue of the timing of any alerts published by Southern Water and the Utility’s working definition of the bathing ‘season’ were also mentioned as the swimmers go out at all times of the year.

“I will also be convening a meeting between the swimming group and key partners, like the council and Southern Water so more of the work being done now – and future plans – can be better shared and understood following my visit with them,” said Caroline.

“It will also be a good opportunity for swimmers’ questions and concerns to be answered directly.  Transparency and public confidence is critically important.  Being able to enjoy the sea is fundamental to our visitor economy too.  For all of these reasons, water quality is a top priority for me.”

Last week, Caroline also spoke in coastal communities questions in the House of Commons on the topic.

She told MPs: “The sea, and all it affords, is our greatest visitor asset in Eastbourne and highly valued by local people.

“I recently met my local swimmers—a very hardy crew that includes one cross-channel swimmer. They are concerned about waste treatment because they enjoy their swimming. What reassurance can my honourable friend give them about the new powers in the Environment Act 2021 that will address this, but equally about Government-sponsored local action that will improve storm overflows and surface water, and help to take us from “good” to “excellent” status for our bathing water?

In reply DEFRA minister Rebecca Pow said: “I thank her for her work in campaigning on this matter, which she constantly talks about with me.

“I am delighted that we recently confirmed funding for East Sussex County Council’s Blue Heart project, which she was very proactive about, to help to reach “excellent” bathing water status.

“That very much focuses on what to do about the surface water and how to separate it from the sewage. That fits fully with all the work we are doing, as a government, to make a game-changing difference on improving our water quality.”

Speaking afterwards, Caroline added: “The Blue Heart Project is very exciting and my hope is this will be a gamechanger for the water quality off Eastbourne.

“The new Environment Act is also putting much greater pressure on water companies to tackle storm overflows and its mixing with sewage, and I do believe the legislation is tough and will drive improvements – something I said to the swimmers when I met them.

“However, those using the water remain concerned and my hope is the work that has been earmarked will be completed as quickly as possible so we can move to that excellent water quality status.”