More than 440,000 hours of sewage was released along England’s coastline in 2023, with more than a quarter of the spills taking place near to bathing spots, new analysis shows.

Environment Agency data on sewage overflow outlets, analysed by campaign group Friends of the Earth, revealed the number and duration of spills directly into the sea and estuaries and near swimming water.

The data showed there more than 68,000 incidents of sewage released into England’s seas last year, totalling 440,446 hours.

Nearly one third of those spills were within 3km of a bathing spot, with 117,584 hours of sewage being released within 1.9 miles of a bathing spot over 21,213 spills, the assessment found.

Daily Echo: A photo issued by Friends of the Earth from their spoof news report fronted by Nish Kumar on a sewage-hit beach as a tourist attraction.A photo issued by Friends of the Earth from their spoof news report fronted by Nish Kumar on a sewage-hit beach as a tourist attraction. (Image: Jonathan Salariya/Friends of the Earth/PA Wire)

The analysis has been released as comedian Nish Kumar fronts a new film with Friends of the Earth, with a spoof news report on the opening of tourist attraction on a seaside town’s sewage-ridden beach.

Friends of the Earth identified all sewage outflows in coastal or estuary waters, or within 500 metres of the sea, to analyse the number and duration of spills into the water.

The campaign group also used the location of coastal bathing waters to summarise sewage spills within the vicinity of beaches, and identified all swimming spots which had warnings not to swim due to pollution or for reduced water quality in 2023, to see where was being most affected.

It identified Cowes Beach on the Isle of Wight as most affected, with nearly 5,000 hours of sewage released near the bathing spot in 2023, followed by Meadfoot in Torbay and Plymouth Hoe West.

Kierra Box, nature campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said the film was a spoof but “could be a taste of what’s to come if the Government doesn’t force water companies to clean up their act”.

“We urgently need to enshrine the right to a healthy environment in UK law, to give communities the power to take back their local seas and beaches, to hold polluters to account, and ensure this never happens again,” she urged.

Comedian Nish Kumar added: “If we don’t act now, we’ll all be swapping our swimmers for hazmat suits and packing an E. coli testing kit before hitting the great British seaside this summer.

“We can’t let water companies have the last laugh, as their shareholders pocket huge payouts while our bills increase.”