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Councillors have agreed to lead on progressing a bid for bathing water status for Wardie Bay, amid mounting pressure from local residents fighting to keep the popular swimming spot safe and clean.
Locals reported swimming in ‘poo’ last week at the Granton beach, which has seen a surge in popularity with swimmers during the pandemic.
Volunteers are campaigning for the site to be better monitored and given environmental protection to tackle problems like waste and sewage.
Wardie Bay Beachwatch set up to campaign against sewage and plastic waste ending up on the beach. They ramped up the campaign after application for bathing water status was rejected in 2019 due to concerns over public safety, council involvement and a lack of facilities in the vicinity of the beach.
Now the group has welcomed the move by the council backing their bid, which will require a legal agreement to be drawn up with private landowners Granton Central Developments Ltd, Crown Estate Scotland and Granton Assets Ltd managed by Buccleuch Estates on management and maintenance of the beach.
A spokesperson said it ‘beggars belief’ that it is left to residents to clean up waste including sewage and hailed the council decision as a huge win for the campaign.
It comes after a report to the transport and environment committee outlined the need for an agreed approach to manage and maintain the beach, following calls for the council to match the investment of the local community.
If an agreement is adopted, the move would see the council work with the community and landowners to progress proposals including swim signage, regular clean-ups and potential provision of toilet facilities.
The development of the city’s waterfront is likely to increase demand for public toilets. But the nearest toilets at Granton Square have been closed since 2015 and are expected to be sold off.
A decision will be made in May on a second application for bathing water status and public petition with more than 1500 signatures.
Karen Bates, Wardie Bay Beachwatch volunteer organiser said: "The council stepping up to support our bid gives us hope for our shoreline. There’s been an increase in visitors, people have flooded to the beach during the pandemic.
"Waste going into sea is relentless and includes human toilet waste. The combined sewer overflows and drains are already beyond the limit of capacity. Sustainable drainage systems must be a requirement not a recommendation of all new developments. It’s important to get the balance right between human health, the ecological importance of the site and development in the area.”
“We don’t think volunteers should be responsible for cleaning up waste. It beggars belief that we even have to ask. I hope we get the result in May and designation can be fast-tracked. We simply can’t wait another year to know if people are swimming in harmful bacteria.”
Councillor Lesley Macinnes, Environment Convener, said: “We’re committed to making Wardie Bay cleaner for locals and visitors to enjoy. We’ll now be working with the local community and landowners to develop an approach that works for everyone and we’ll report back on progress to a future committee.”