Two of Morecambe’s main beaches could be shut to swimmers unless steps are taken to remove sources of contamination from the water.
Morecambe North and South beaches, along with 43 others, have failing water quality standards, according to the Environment Agency.
From next year, the beaches could have signs put up marking them as unfit for bathing under new EU rules.
But this could mean that families visiting Morecambe could desert the town, with potentially devastating effects for the local economy.
Jim Catterall, manager of the Craigwell Hotel in Morecambe for 10 years, who has signed up to the Lovemybeach campaign, said: “This would have a big impact on families who visit the resort. If a child is at the seaside they want to go for a paddle or a splash.
“This would have a big impact on families more than anyone and it could be quite serious. It could send out the message that this isn’t the place to come, it does send out a negative message because people might think if the sea isn’t clean, then the beach isn’t either.”
According to the Environment Agency, which released the list, a common problem that persists after years of clean-ups is houses and businesses whose sewage outlets are wrongly connected to storm drains emptying directly into the sea.
Some beaches could see bans on feeding seagulls, whose droppings are another source of contamination, while more could see dogs prohibited. This summer offers the final chance for the offending beaches to meet minimum water standards before the EU rules require local councils to put up warning signs next year.
But as contamination is based on the average over four years, any beaches ruled unsafe could face a long wait before they are reopened.
Helen Wilson, spokesperson for United Utilities, said: “United Utilities is a partner of Love My Beach, a campaign which brings together various groups, including the Environment Agency, National Farmers Union, Marine Conservation Society, British Destinations, Keep Britain Tidy and local authorities, to keep the North West’s bathing waters clean.
“At Morecambe we’re playing our part with an £18m sewer improvement project taking place in Lancaster city centre.”