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Torbay's beaches are 'cleanest' in England

10 May 11 13:01
People on Scarborough beach

Torbay - known as the English Riviera - has the cleanest beaches in England, Keep Britain Tidy has said, after it received more Blue Flag awards for water quality than anywhere else.

Its beaches received six flags for water quality and cleanliness. Cornwall and Southend-on-Sea each received five.

Some 70 beaches in England passed the strict tests - one less than in 2010.

This year, a pilot scheme will be launched to warn beach users when nearby sewer overflows are discharging.

The scheme will cover up to 50 locations - including both Blue Flag beaches and other bathing waters, such as surfing beaches.

The worldwide Blue Flag initiative is run by independent non-profit group the Foundation for Environmental Education.

Anti-litter charity Keep Britain Tidy is responsible for the Blue Flag scheme in England.

Keep Wales Tidy, Tidy Northern Ireland and Keep Scotland Beautiful administer equivalent schemes in the rest of the UK.

Skegness, Scarborough and Bournemouth are among 70 of England's beaches to have been awarded Blue Flag awards. In 2002, only 45 English beaches achieved Blue Flags.

Clean and safe

And 108 beaches in England received Quality Coast Awards, which were introduced by Keep Britain Tidy in 2007 to reward beaches in England deemed to have achieved the highest standards of beach management.

In total, 32 beaches received both awards

Phil Barton, chief executive of Keep Britain Tidy, said: "The continuing high standards of our beaches are testament to the hard work carried out by beach managers throughout the year in order to provide clean and safe beaches for everyone to enjoy, whether you live on the coast or are a visitor."

The sewage warning pilot scheme is being developed through the Cleaner Seas Forum, led by the Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs and involving a range of interest and campaign groups.

The final list of participants is still being developed, said Keep Britain Tidy.

Campaigners such as Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) have been calling for real-time warnings on sewage overflows to be provided for all bathing waters by water companies. Some companies already use warning systems, or are in the process of putting them in place.

SAS will be setting up its own special website later this month to provide online and text message alerts for a number of bathing waters in Wales, south west England and the south coast of England - a service it hopes to expand.

Director of SAS, Hugo Tagholn said traditionally water companies had been silent over the problem.

"We are very encouraged to see action being taken, while being mindful of the impact of sewage overflows on the health of the general public and surfers.

"Longer term it will help us identify which areas require further investment," he said.

Keep Britain Tidy said the overall pilot scheme would provide valuable information, with a view to bringing in sewage warnings as a mandatory requirement for Blue Flag status for 2012.

This is likely to apply where there are combined sewer overflows either in, or immediately adjacent to, the proposed award area.

Combined sewer systems collect both sewage and stormwater in the same pipe, which can overflow during heavy rain.

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