Ben Howard hands surfing waves petition to Number 10
A 55,000-strong petition calling for better protection for UK waves has been handed to the Government as a new study showed the surfing industry was worth £1.8 billion to the UK economy.
The Protect Our Waves campaign by Cornwall-based Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) has attracted widespread support and the final document was handed in at Downing Street by musician and double Brit Award winner Ben Howard.
St Austell and Newquay MP Stephen Gilbert also hosted a session in the House of Commons to promote the petition and the the environmental group's aims.
SAS, which is based at St Agnes, also commissioned new analysis of the surfing industry – worth an estimated £628 million a year in Cornwall and Devon – to press home the need to safeguard valuable and vulnerable surfing environments and communities.
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It wants to see amendments to legislation to better control sewage pollution, marine litter and damaging coastal developments and industry. SAS also believes that waves and surf spots deserve to be seen as part of UK heritage.
SAS chief executive Hugo Tagholm corrsaid: “We’ve been overwhelmed at the level of support for the Protect Our Waves petition with over 55,000 signatories and the backing of stars including Jack Johnson, Kelly Slater, Gabrielle Aplin and Ben Howard.
“Coupled with the astonishing economic data released today on the value of surfing to the UK, there is a clear case to say that surfing in sewage, walking over tide lines of trash to access a wave or developers damaging waves without consideration is simply just not acceptable.
“We look forward to working with MPs to deliver the solutions to better protecting surf spots for all to use safely and sustainably.”
The new study, by economist Dr Bryan Mills, from Cornwall College, found the overall value of surfing was comparable to that of sailing in the UK or annual tourism in Cornwall.
Spending, including fuel, was estimated at £276 million in Cornwall, £184 million in East Devon, £92 million in South Devon and £76 million in North Devon.
It revealed the average UK surfer spent £3,624 annually on pursuing the sport including equipment, food and drink, fuel, parking and accommodation.
Based on more than 2,000 responses, mostly from Cornwall and Devon, it showed the sport was not restricted to the under 30s with a significant amount of surfers in their 40s, 50s and beyond. SAS also identified 11 regions in the UK with a population of more than 10,000 surfers.
A briefing in the House of Commons yesterday was sponsored by Mr Gilbert.
“Some of the best surfing waves in the UK are found in my constituency and surfing is a big economic driver for the area, and for Cornwall as a whole,” Mr Gilbert said.
“I hope that I can help other MP’s recognise the value of natural surfing capital and the economic value in their own regions and better protect these environments and those that use them.
“Surfing has long since moved into the mainstream and it is important that we better manage these resources, which keep people coming back to the coast year round.”