THREE beaches could be forced to put up signs urging swimmers to stay out of the water.

Under new regulations imposed by the European Union beaches at Hasting, Lancing and Bexhill could be deemed unfit for swimmers.

All three currently fall below new standards which dictate acceptable levels of bacteria in seawater samples.

The new measures come into force next year and will legally require councils to put up signs on their beaches should they not meet adequate standards.

Sampling experiments are carried out by the Environment Agency (EA) and the new measures are “twice as stringent” as previous water quality ratings.

Councillor James Butcher, chairman of Lancing Parish Council, said the possibility of losing the beach would be “devastating” and problems for the beach are exacerbated by waste on the shore.

He said: “The EA has a management plan for Lancing beach and this is to monitor the water quality until the end of September.

“At that point, Lancing Parish Council, working with its partners, will take any and all possible steps to ensure our beaches meet the new water quality standards.

“We are very proud of being a coastal community and want to ensure our beaches are the wonder, not the woe of our local area.”

Kevin Boorman, a spokesman for Hastings District Council (HDC), has said the council is working to ensure the town meets the new standards.

HDC is working with Southern Water to tackle water pollution on the beach, which stem from a pipe discharging waste water.

Mr Boorman added that the beach’s problems are exacerbated by misconnected plumbing links in some of the town’s homes, which discharge waste into the surface water runoff.

A spokesman for Southern Water said: “The Environment Agency has identified that wrong connections - wastewater pipes which have been plumbed into the surface water system - have the most significant impact on the area’s bathing water quality.

“We have helped the agency and council pinpoint where some of these issues are in the town and they are setting about getting them put right.

“Hastings passed the current EU standard for bathing water quality last year. It’s important to note that a lower classification under next year’s tougher revised Bathing Water Directive will not necessarily mean a drop in bathing water quality.”