CAMPAIGNERS have demanded a water company stops its sewage plant from emitting nasty smells before the Open Golf championship next year.

With the borough preparing to hold the prestigious international competition which is expected to bring tens of thousands of visitors, fears have been raised about a water treat-ment plant in Meols a mile and a half from the course.

Residents have made numerous complaints about the United Utilities treatment plant in recent years claiming they are often forced to keep their windows closed in summer because the stench is so bad.

It has led to the area being dubbed 'Meols smells'.

Now local politicians are worried odours from the site will create a bad first impression for golf fans.

Hoylake Cllr Gerry Ellis said: "People in Meols are still complaining about the smells, and lots of people do complain when they go past on the train.

"We don't want people's first whiff of Wirral to be this."

United Utilities has said it plans major works to improve the Meols site which are due to start in December this year. But they will take around 12 months to complete - six months after the tournament is held.

Cllr Ellis said: "They have told us there will be improvements before The Open, but it's a pity they can't bring the work forward so it is completed before the tournament starts.

"People passing on the train, going to and from Hoylake, go literally within yards of the plant, and they do smell the pong if there has been a problem."

Cllr Steve Niblock, who has led a campaign to have sewage plants across Wirral improved, said the council needed more powers to be able to act against the water company if any problems arise.

He claims the current code of conduct means local authorities have little powers to force them to act.

Instead they have to deal with problems through the courts, which can be time-consuming.

Cllr Niblock said: "They should be able to be ordered to clean up their act, and unless the code of conduct is statutory it means using the courts which is costly and time-consuming.

"This is not an everyday occurrence but, when it happens, it's because something goes wrong and sometimes it can take a couple of days to fix it.

"In this case, if that happened, it could affect The Open. United Utilities could perhaps close the plant for that period, or they may have contingency plans for that time."

A spokesman for Untied Utilities said: "We are planning to enhance the wastewater treatment works at Meols and it is hoped the scheme will start later this year.

"We are aware that the British Open is being held at Hoy-lake in July 2006 and, over the coming months, we will continue to work closely with the council to minimise any potential disruption."