Meeting the public participation and information-provision challenges
72. The revised Bathing Water Directive requires some specific elements of public participation, and that some very specific pieces of information are disseminated to the public at large. More importantly, however, it seeks to nurture a culture of openness and an ethos of public participation.
Statutory dissemination of information
73. Article 12.1 of the revised Directive sets out information which should be actively and promptly made available in the near vicinity of each bathing water. It is anticipated that SEPA will be delegated responsibility for providing that information to local authorities and beach operators. It is also anticipated that responsibility for disseminating this information shall be given to these local authorities and beach operators. However, the Scottish Executive is aware that there may be instances (for example at remote sites) in which it makes more sense for SEPA, or another body, to display the information. In these cases, agreements between relevant parties will be sought.
74. Article 12.2 of the revised Directive sets out information which should be actively and promptly disseminated through " appropriate media and technologies, including the internet". SEPA already use a range of media, including the internet, text messaging and recorded telephone information lines to disseminate some of the required information. It is anticipated that SEPA shall be made responsible for continuing this dissemination of information, and expanding it as necessary to comply with the requirements of the Directive.
75. The revised Directive states that this information should be made available in several languages, where appropriate. Consideration will be given as to whether or not and when this may be appropriate in the consultation referred to in paragraph 40.
76. The Scottish Executive recognises the value of the electronic signs which display real-time bathing water quality predictions, and intends to renew funding for the signage at the existing ten sites beyond 2007.
77. It is also recognised that management measures are an important element of the new Directive. These measures include taking action to prevent bathers' exposure to poor water quality, and are a prerequisite to being able to discount samples taken during short-term pollution incidents.
78. These electronic signs are believed to be an effective method of taking such action. Subject to the funding being available, the Scottish Executive intends to install new signs at bathing waters where the profile indicates that they are suitable for the predictive model, at risk of being as classified as poor, and can reasonably be expected to attain a sufficient classification. This is anticipated to apply to approximately twenty sites.
79. The Scottish Executive and SEPA are currently in discussions with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, and hope also to be able to display targeted safety messages on these signs as appropriate.
Providing information during pollution incidents at sites without electronic signage
80. Where short-term pollution occurs at bathing waters and electronic signage is not available, there is still a requirement to take appropriate management measures to prevent bathers' exposure to poor water quality. It is anticipated that local authorities or other beach operators will be required to design a contingency plan for such situations. It is expected that this will be done in consultation with SEPA, and as in paragraph 73, arrangements may be made for elements of the plan to be effected by SEPA or other bodies. However, ultimate responsibility for these measures must rest with the local authority or other beach operator.
Information concerning non-designated waters
81. Implementing the revised Bathing Water Directive will represent a significant burden on available resources. Improving bathing waters is and will remain the Scottish Executive's priority over improving other, non-designated waters.
82. However, other waters which do not meet the criteria necessary to be defined as bathing waters are also important to their local communities. Indeed, under the terms of the new Directive - which states that permanent advice against bathing shall be issued at any bathing water which is classified as poor for five consecutive years - there may be some waters which are not designated bathing waters, but at which there remains significant levels of usage, despite advice to the contrary.
83. Once implementation is underway, and a clearer indication of available resources is apparent, the Scottish Executive shall consider asking SEPA to create and disseminate profiles indicating risks to water quality at certain non-designated waters.
84. The revised Bathing Water Directive contains the general requirement that " Member States shall encourage public participation in the implementation of this Directive… in particular, the establishment, review and updating of lists of bathing waters".
85. As stated in paragraphs 44 and 45, the primary mechanism for reviewing the list of bathing waters in Scotland after 2008 will be periodic reviews, likely to be by a panel constituted in a similar fashion to the existing Bathing Water Review Panel, supplemented by a mechanism for reviewing any applications for designated status which may reasonably arise between formal reviews.
86. Local community groups and councils will continue to be encouraged to submit applications for designation. It is intended that these applications will be advertised through appropriate media, including the internet, and that suggestions, remarks or complaints for the panel to consider will be encouraged.
87. More general participation in the implementation of the Directive can be achieved through the support given to community groups under the scheme referred to in paragraph 70. It is also recognised that insufficient use has hitherto been made of existing networks through which public participation is already encouraged, such as the Scottish Coastal Forum, and that this situation should be reversed.
Phone: 0131 244 0205
Environmental Quality Division
Area 3H (south)