How Clean Sweep transformed the South West
"Without Clean Sweep, the tourist industry would have been destroyed. Today water quality is first class and the South West is attracting tourists on the strength of its reputation as a clean and green destination." Malcolm Bell Chief Executive of South West Tourism
Looking back, it's hard to remember the state we were in two decades ago.
Many communities lacked the most basic sewage treatment and the region's reputation as a tourist haven was under threat. Many believed you were gambling with your health if you took a dip.
Now the waters are full every summer as eight million visitors – local, national and international – flock to the region's beaches spending around £2,459 million per year.
Research shows the South West's beautiful landscape is a motive for 78% of trips and 87% of visitors rate 'cleanliness of the sea' as a key factor when deciding whether to go to the beach.
So what happened since 1989? In two words – Clean Sweep.
South West Water has spent £1.5 billion in cleaning up the coast and now we are all reaping the benefits.
In 2006, every one of the region's bathing waters passed tough European standards – a better record than the French Riviera, the Costa del Sol and the Balearics.
Malcolm Bell, Chief Executive of South West Tourism, explains: "There have been three major investments in the South West tourist economy in recent years – the Eden Project, the Coastal Path and Clean Sweep. And of these Clean Sweep is by far the most important.
"Today our bathing water quality is first class and the region is attracting tourists on the strength of its reputation as a clean and green destination."
Dozens of communities, large and small, now have modern sewage treatment for the first time. South West Water has also spent £100 million on its inland waste water programme helping in the clean up of the region's rivers.
The region now regularly tops national 'quality of life' surveys and is attracting millions in inward investment. New businesses such as Jamie Oliver's Fifteen Cornwall at Watergate Bay are capturing awards and headlines.
And did you know the South West now has the highest participation rates for walking and swimming in the UK? It's South Westerners who are out and about enjoying the new South West the most.
With Clean Sweep almost complete, South West Water is turning to the next 20 years and is now drawing up its long term priorities with the help of its customers.
Chief Executive Chris Loughlin said: "Our £1.5 billion investment in Clean Sweep has proved vital to the region's economic growth while protecting its environment.
"Clean Sweep has been an expensive programme but the long term benefits have been huge. We've come a long way and now we are preparing for future challenges including the implications of climate change.
"We have a vision of where we want to be in 2030 and we are aiming to make that vision a reality at the lowest possible price. But we need our customers' input to succeed and that's why we are asking for their views on the way ahead."
MP for Exeter and Minister for the South West
Chairman of the Surf Life Saving Association of Great Britain
Major Clean Sweep Schemes
Coastal Pollution Officer, Marine Conservation Society