Good news for Walpole, Joss and Botany bays but disappointment for Viking Bay in latest bathing water classifications

Walpole Bay Photo Swift Aerial Photography

Walpole Bay has achieved an excellent rating for bathing water quality in the latest classifications released by the Environment Agency.

The rating moves Walpole up from the Good grading in 2019. No classifications were issued in 2020 due to the pandemic.

The excellent rating at the designated bathing area, which includes the ever-popular Victorian tidal pool, shows continued improvement following Poor gradings in 2015 and 2016, Sufficient in 2018 and the Good grading in 2019.

It is also good news for Joss Bay and Botany Bay in Broadstairs which have both been rated Excellent, rising from a Good grading in 2019.

Botany Bay Photo Sarah Humphrey

However, there is disappointment for Viking Bay which drops from a Good grading to ‘Sufficient’.

Other gradings for 2021 – published this week – remain unchanged from 2019.

Viking Bay Photo Brian Whitehead

Results for the 2021 bathing season nationally show 94.7% of beaches and inland waters gained an ‘Excellent’ or ‘Good’ rating while 4.3% achieved the minimum ‘Sufficient’ rating. This compares with 98.3% passing the required standards in 2019 and is the highest number since new standards were introduced in 2015.

Bathing waters are monitored for sources of pollution known to be a risk to bathers’ health, with up to 20 samples taken from each site during the bathing season. Each sample is tested for bacteria, specifically E coli and intestinal enterococci.

The EA has been monitoring bathing water sites since the 1990s, and in this time there have been significant improvements. In the early 1990s just 28% of bathing waters met the highest standards in force at that time. Based on today’s data, 99% of bathing waters meet the minimum standard, with 70.7% reaching the highest standards.

Since 2015 the EA has required water companies to install Event Duration Monitors at bathing water sites. This captures data on the frequency and duration of storm overflow discharges, with all the data published online so the public can see what is happening in their area. More than 12,000 of England’s 15,000 storm overflows now have these monitors, and the remaining 3,000 will have them by end of next year.

Joss Bay Photo Frank Leppard

Environment Agency Chair Emma Howard Boyd said: “With billions spent on seaside visits every year, we know good water quality helps coastal towns prosper. Twenty years of improvements in bathing water took targeted regulation and significant investment. While this is reflected in (the) results we must continue to work together to maintain this trend.

“We cannot afford to be complacent. Public confidence in water quality has faltered in recent years with new evidence of pollution incidents getting much needed attention as a result of some excellent campaigning. The polluter must pay. To restore trust, water companies, industry and farmers need to get the basics right or face legal action.

“The prize is multiple benefits to people and nature. The Environment Agency is working to ensure £120 million is invested in coastal habitats like England’s saltmarshes, which protect against coastal erosion and also store carbon equivalent to nearly 40 million people’s annual domestic emissions.”

Minnis Bay Photo David Larkins

A Thanet council spokesperson said: “Thanet has 13 designated bathing waters and we are very pleased to see that ten of them have been classified as ‘Excellent’ and three classified as ‘Good’ or ‘Sufficient’. It’s wonderful to see that so many of our beaches and bays, including Walpole Bay are ‘Excellent’.

“There has been a great deal of hard work to help improve the quality of the bathing water along Thanet’s coastline. In particular, there has been considerable help from a range of community groups to ensure that Walpole Bay has continued to improve. Beach Management initiatives have included litter picks, additional bins, and tackling anti-social behaviour in the area. There is also a dog Public Spaces Protection Order, which was renewed in 2020 and lists the beaches that welcome dogs during peak season or stipulates time and on/off lead restrictions.

“The bathing water quality at Viking Bay has been marked ‘sufficient’ this year which means it does still meet the minimum standard. The results are aggregated on historic readings, usually dating back four years*, and as such are not just a reflection of the past 12 months but can be affected by the years preceding too.”

Environment Agency data


Excellent – the highest, cleanest seas
Good – generally good water quality
Sufficient – the water meets minimum standards
Poor – the water has not met the new minimum standards. Work is planned to improve bathing waters not yet reaching Sufficient
If water is classified as poor, then a sign advising against bathing will be displayed. However the beach remains open for people to enjoy.

*There were insufficient samples collected in 2020 due to Covid-19 and therefore not included in the classification data – this has been applied nationally. The latest classification based data is from 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2021.

Thanet Designated Bathing Area Grade


Minnis Bay – Excellent (unchanged)


Viking Bay – Sufficient (2019- Good)

Botany Bay – Excellent (2019 -Good)

Stone Bay – Excellent (unchanged)

Joss Bay – Excellent (2019 -Good)


Fulsam Rock – Excellent (unchanged)

Main Sands – Excellent (unchanged)

Westbrook Bay – Excellent (unchanged)

Walpole Bay – Excellent (2019 -Good)


Main Sands –  Good (unchanged)

Western Undercliff – Good (unchanged)


St Mildred’s Bay – Excellent (unchanged)

West Bay – Excellent (unchanged)


    • Oh Peter, I nearly fell off my seat when reading that.

      TDC have to prioritise their money, paying out for non-disclosure orders always comes first, above any maintenence issues.

  1. Peter I noticed in the published budget plans put forward buy the Labour group alrough they are not in charge no mention at all about the Walpole bay lift it was all about Ramsgate and Broadstairs as usual

  2. It would seem that the Victorian era lasted longer than I first thought. The Victorian tidal pool at Walpole Bay was built in 1937 as far as I know.

  3. I think this is the George VI pool at Walpole Bay if built in 1937.
    The lift will never be repaired under the authority of TDC as they take pleasure in leaving all Cliftonville history to rot, or demolish it. But, it is to be included for refurbishment in the Margate Town Deal fund, so when this money eventually appears we should see work starting there. I would love to see other repairs and reinstatements along the Cliftonville coast as well as this, like the derelict shelters and the missing since 2019 historical Flagstaff at Prince’s Walk Promenade. Toilets and changing facilities at Newgate along with Lifeguards. The derelict mini-golf course returned to gardens if never being used again. The Oval area is looking fine, what about the rest of the cliff top? Visitors need something to come here for.

  4. Wouldn’t take too much notice, by the time summer comes, and bathers are back in the sea, all would have changed again. Some areas may improve even more, and some may deteriorate. The data will be out-of-date, take your gamble where you go.

  5. It seems pretty clear then that the reason Viking Bay is more polluted has everything to do with yhr amount of people using it rather than pollution from Southern Water. If you want a cleaner experience don’t seem where every one else does. But be careful cos the cleanest sea has no life guards.

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