Wales

Blue flag: Fewer beaches in Wales win status

  • 15 May 2013
  • From the section Wales
Whitesands Bay in Pembrokeshire
Image caption Whitesands beach in Pembrokeshire has kept its blue flag

Nearly a quarter of blue flag beaches in Wales have lost their status after a wet 2012 affected water quality.

Thirty three, instead of 43, beaches have won the international award, alongside five marinas.

This year judging has used stricter criteria for water quality meaning some beaches around Wales could not apply.

The very wet 2012 meant more bacteria has been found, but the overall standard of Welsh beaches remains high, says Natural Resources Wales.

The blue flag award is issued by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), which rates beaches on categories including safety, facilities, and environmental management, as well as water quality

More stringent revised European bathing water standards were applied for the first time meaning beaches had to reach a level almost twice as strict as before.

Improvements

Emyr Roberts, chief executive of Natural Resources Wales, said: "We all know that the record rainfall has an impact on water quality last year, but what is encouraging is that despite this and the higher standards introduced, 90% of beaches are projected to be classed as good and 68% as excellent in 2015."

Wednesday also marks the start of the bathing water season during which teams from Natural Resources Wales will collect 2,000 samples over the season from 100 designated beaches.

"As a result of the work we are doing to improve water quality and hopefully, with better weather this summer, more people will have an opportunity to enjoy the clean water and fantastic beaches we have in Wales," said Mr Roberts.

Fergus O'Brien, Dwr Cymru Welsh Water's coastal water manager, said they were committed to safeguarding the local environment, including bathing waters.

He said: "Today after investing more than £1bn in improving our treatment works around the coast of Wales, we can boast some of the best coastal waters in Europe.

"We will continue to work to support the work of partner agencies to further improve bathing water quality which is so important to the Welsh tourism industry."

More 'sophisticated'

However, Chris Jackson, chairman of the North Wales Tourism Partnership, said he did not believe the blue flag award was as relevant as it used to be.

"The blue flag is like a sublime spa beach that has everything provided there.

"I certainly like to think the British public is more resilient and sophisticated than that. They will find out about health standards if they want to go swimming in the sea."

The 2013 blue flag beaches were revealed at an event hosted by Keep Wales Tidy in Rest Bay, Porthcawl.

Two other coastal awards - Green Coast and Seaside - were presented alongside the blue flags by Natural Resources Minister Alun Davies for the first time.

Thirty five Green Coast awards which recognises beaches which are quieter and have an unspoilt environment were handed out.

The Seaside award went to 49 beach resorts near towns and 58 rural ones.

In March, wet weather was also blamed for a fall in the number of Welsh beaches reaching the top EU bathing water standard in the Marine Conservation Society's Good Beach Guide.

Mr Davies said he was committed to ensuring that the highest possible bathing water is achieved to complement the "excellent facilities and dedicated community work that is needed to meet these standards."

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