Good Beach Guide: Record number get top award

 
Parent and child on beach The results of the latest guide is based on testing carried out last summer

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A record number of UK beaches have been given the top award for water quality in the latest Good Beach Guide.

This year 516 out of 754 UK beaches were recommended for "excellent" water quality, compared with 461 in 2011.

But the Marine Conservation Society is warning that heavy rains are washing raw sewage from overflow pipes and pollution from towns and rural areas to bathing areas.

It warned authorities not to become complacent.

The group's annual guide also reveals areas which are not successfully tackling poor water quality, with four beaches at Blackpool and nearby St Anne's among those once again failing to reach mandatory levels for clean water.

Good Beach Guide: Top counties *

Boy playing football on beach

Location

Beaches

Recommended

Durham

6

100%

Anglesey

26

96%

Jersey

16

94%

Norfolk

15

93%

Northumberland

11

91%

Lincolnshire

9

89%

Vale of Glamorgan

9

89%

Dorset

40

88%

Hampshire

14

86%

The results of the latest guide, based on testing carried out last summer, show more than two-thirds (68%) of the total number of bathing spots are "excellent and there is an 8% rise in the number of beaches getting the best grade.

However, 25 beaches failed to achieve mandatory levels of water cleanliness.

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) says the picture is patchy around the UK, with less than half (41%) of Scotland's beaches getting the top grade, a 5% drop on the previous year after the country was hit by heavy summer rains and above-average rainfall in 2011.

North-west England achieved the top "recommended" level for just over a fifth of its beaches.

With the first measurements being taken this summer under new, more stringent European Union water quality rules which come in in 2015, the MCS is warning against complacency over improving standards.

Coastal pollution officer Rachel Wyatt said it was important that local authorities, water companies and environmental regulators did not become "complacent" and "take their collective feet off the pedal of continued environmental improvements".

Least recommended counties *

Location

Beaches

Recommended

Dumfries & Galloway

7

0%

North Ayrshire

7

0%

Lancashire

13

0%

Isle of Man

19

11%

Cumbria

13

15%

Aberdeenshire

12

25%

Fife

12

33%

South Ayrshire

11

36%

Wirral

8

50%

East Lothian

15

53%

*With more than five beaches

"If that happens we could see a drop in the number of beaches recommended by us in the future, which could pose a risk to the great reputation British beaches have," she said.

One of the major threats to bathing water quality is overflow pipes which discharge raw sewage into rivers and the sea from sewer networks when heavy rain overloads the system with water from street drains.

The MCS has previously revealed there are about 31,000 of these "combined sewer overflows" around the country, more than three-quarters of which are not monitored to see how often they are discharging polluted water.

The conservation society is concerned that some of them are discharging untreated sewage dozens or even hundreds of times a year, and is calling for monitoring of all the overflow pipes around the country in order to find out how often they were discharging polluted water so steps could be taken to manage them.

The other risk to bathing waters caused by heavy rain is diffuse pollution washed into rivers and coastal areas from the countryside and towns as a result of downpours.

 

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  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 52.

    I have always found these comparison figures to be a let down to the population that use and like our beaches. All beaches should be superb, and if not then we have had decade after decade to put them right. The only beaches I've found that are properly clean are in the distant islands and coast of North West Scotland. There are truly wonderful.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 47.

    Just don't tell *everybody* or they will all want to come!
    I would like to keep some of our beaches to ourselves. :-)

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 43.

    The UK has some of the most stringent environmental laws in the world, so it stands to reason that we would also have some of the cleanest beaches and least contaminated coast lines.

    Unfortunately we don't have the decent weather, which is why a lot of people seam to think countries like France and Spain are cleaner...when in fact they're more polluted.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 4.

    North West Sctoland has the best beaches. As you sit there huddled up in your anorak you can just imagine your are in the Caribbean with their clean white sands and crystal blue waters.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 1.

    That's good then. Come on in, the water is lovely. Has anyone been on a beach where there isn't a wall of litter (mostly plastic) along the tideline to be negotiated before you sample the wonderful clean water? Of course it is something to be celebrated but there's still an awful lot to do to clean the sea up.

 
 

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