No bathing advisory for Heacham beach provokes community anger and hundreds of signatures to petition

No bathing advisory for Heacham beach provokes community anger and hundreds of signatures to petition
Cllr Rob Colwell tests the water at Heacham

A Borough and County Councillor in West Norfolk has started an online petition following local anger at a “no bathing advisory” being renewed for 2023 summer season, and been encouraged by its popularity.

Cllr Colwell a Liberal Democrat councillor since 2021 has started the petition following concerns from residents that not enough was being done and a continued deterioration in water quality standards since 2019. The Environment Agency have again classified Heacham beach as “poor” and following continued positive E. coli tests which took place on 11, 24 and 29 May and 6,10 and 13 June 2023.

Cllr Colwell said “I’m so encouraged by the hundreds of local people who have signed the petition to date. Do please keep sharing it online and spread the warnings about swimming in the sea here. Our Norfolk coastline is something to which we feel connected and of which we are justifiably proud. It’s vital for the tourist industry and the Wash is England’s largest nature reserve. Beaches polluted with raw sewage are simply unacceptable. I have a close connection with Heacham going back many years, with fond childhood memories and many friends in the village. It was also where I first attempted getting elected in a by-election after joining the LibDems back in 2016, beaten by some bloke called Terry Parish. Residents want Heacham to be known for its lavender, its sense of community, Pocahontas, the 1795 declaration and as a seaside resort boasting fine sunset views for over a century and a half following the opening of the railway to Hunstanton. Instead, its sewage and no swim warnings are now dominating regional and national headlines.

“Recent votes from our local Conservative MPs show they are happy to vote down tougher action. It’s now clear they don’t share the level of concern of the local community. Instead they prefer to blame Victorian sewers. They would probably blame the Romans for the poor state of the roads. The reality is that lack of investment and poor regulation of privatised water companies, together with a lack of legal powers and cuts to Environment Agency funding are to blame. The Tory plans are unsatisfactory and don’t go fast enough. It hasn’t always been this way. Water quality at Heacham has become progressively worse, downgraded from “sufficient” to “poor” in 2019. Neighbouring Hunstanton had Blue Flag status until a 2016 downgrade due to water quality. A further reduction here would devastate the town. Residents feel the Tories just don’t seem to care and I want James Wild to think again, listen to his constituents and take sewage dumping more seriously. He should know it means a lot to people who actually live in West Norfolk”. 

From his monthly councillor allowances Cllr Colwell purchased a kit and incubator for E. coli testing in order to conduct his own citizen scientist tests with the help of John Crofts.

To sign the petition go to

James Wild MP said: “The quality of bathing water at Heacham is a serious concern which is why I have been pressing the Environment Agency to tackle this problem since the poor rating was first given. Extra government funding - £38,000 - has been secured for targeted analysis by experts of samples taken during past bathing water seasons and for the upcoming season so appropriate action can be taken. I’ll continue working with the regulator, Anglian Water, and others on solutions to improve the bathing water quality for local people and visitors.

“Having campaigned to protect our coastal waters and precious chalk streams, I support the Environment Act, requiring a record £56 billion investment by water companies, plus tough new powers for regulators and unlimited fines. When Liberal Democrats had the opportunity to back the government’s fully costed plan to tackle sewage in Parliament last month they failed to vote – playing games over supporting real action.”

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