Keep Britain Tidy has announced the cleanest beaches in Britain for 2019 - but after three years of Blue Flag status, Blackpool is now missing from the list.
Blackpool South beach, opposite the Pleasure Beach, has dropped off the list of Britain’s best beaches three years after it was first awarded the accolade.
A spokesman for Blackpool Council said that the reason for the loss of the prestigious flag was due to a 1.89 per cent drop in water quality.
However, they said the quality of the resort’s bathing water was still good, and that four of its beaches - South, Central, North and Bispham - had been given a Seaside Award by the environmental charity celebrating their top quality sands.
They said: “It is of course disappointing that Blackpool South did not retain its Blue Flag status this year. This award is particularly tough to achieve as classifications can be affected by the smallest change to water quality.
“This year the opportunity to reapply was missed by the tiniest of margins, a miniscule 1.89 per cent based on the measuring criteria used.
“We will continue to work hard as part of the group Turning Tides which is a partnership of organisations and volunteers that work together to improve the quality of water in the region so that Blackpool can once again fly the blue flag in 2020.”
A total of 71 beaches have been awarded Blue Flag status this year - but not one North West beach made the list.
Each year, Blue Flags are awarded to beaches that are litter-free, and have top-class facilities and a high standard of water quality.
The Blue Flag is an international award for excellence, while Seaside Awards are presented to the best beaches in England and celebrate the quality and diversity of its coastline.
A Blackpool Council spokesman added: “It shows that wherever you go on Blackpool’s coast you are sure of an award-winning beach that is extremely well managed, clean, safe and meets the highest environmental standards, as well as stringent international bathing water quality standards.
“A huge amount of work by council officers, partners, businesses and volunteers goes into making our beaches as clean and as enjoyable as possible, so it’s great to see it recognised in this way.
“Over a number of years we have made big steps to improve the quality of Blackpool’s bathing waters and this continues to be a success story for the resort with water quality along our coast meeting or exceeding the minimum standards for safe and clean bathing waters.”
The Environment Agency said the main causes of bacteria in Blackpool South’s bathing water were seabirds, humans, and farm animals.
Zephie Begolo, of LOVEmyBEACH’s Turning Tides partnership, said the slight drop in water quality might also have been contributed by Blackpool’s sewage system exceeding its full capacity due to heavy rainfall in September.
She said: “Blackpool getting a Blue Flag was one of our biggest success stories.
“The town got a clean sweep in the Seaside Awards and this is a really high mark of quality for environmental standards, and it’s something we are really proud of.
“It’s of course a shame that Blackpool didn’t retain its Blue Flag, but it was by a very short margin. It’s got to be remembered that the standards are set by the EU and they are incredibly tough standards, so we may not have a Blue Flag but we have still got an awful lot to be proud of.
“I think it was unfortunate timing for the end of the bathing water season last year. We had some bad weather in September and the Environment Agency, the way their schedule fell, it was at that time there was a lot of testing being done.
“If we have a lot of rainfall in a short period of time, that overflows the sewage systems, and our sewage system has a limited capacity in terms of how much it can hold.
“If it is full, it then overflows when more comes in. It will flow out into the sea if there’s too much in there, so that’s possibly what’s happened.
“After a very dry summer, combined with the bad weather in September, I think that was a perfect storm and that’s what we think caused the drop.”
Three years ago, Blackpool proudly flew its Blue Flag for the first time as one of its beaches was proclaimed among the best in the world.
Tourism chiefs, engineers and council bosses were among those who celebrated the Blue Flag at Blackpool South beach, which was at the time the only stretch in the North West to match the exacting global standards.
Despite the loss of the Flag, Zephie said: “A lot of work has been done in Blackpool. United Utilities have spent £1bn in the region in the past 25 years on improving its water network. Blackpool’s waste water network is the best it has ever been.
“Lots of people have volunteers for LOVEmyBEACH and work tirelessly to keep our beaches clean and safe, and the fact that we have won these Seaside Awards is a testament to that.
“We might not have a Blue Flag. but our beaches are the cleanest and safest they have ever been.”
A spokesman for United Utilities said: “Blackpool’s wastewater network is the best it has ever been. Our new stormwater storage tank at Fishers Field came on line before the start of the 2018 bathing season, part of our latest £100m investment in Blackpool. And our new pumping station and outfall pipe at Anchorsholme Park came on line in March 2019, in time for the start of this year’s season.
“In total over the last 25 years we’ve invested £1 billion improving the North West’s bathing waters. We continue to work closely with our partners at Turning Tides to see what more could be done to improve them further still.”
Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden said: “Our Blue Flag status for Blackpool South beach for the last three years has been rightly a great source of pride for people in Blackpool. It is disappointing to lose this status – these can be complex matters and a mixture of the beach itself and the water quality. I will be speaking urgently with the council and other stakeholders to discuss what the causes have been and how we can act quickly to earn this status again.
“In terms of any wider issues about pollution and waste on beach areas, I have been continuing to emphasise my support off the back of my Cleaner Greener campaign I launched three years year, for groups and individuals who are doing practical things to make the town greener and cleaner. When I chatted with some of the children at St Cuthberts Academy last week about the environment, they told me about some of the work they are doing to reduce plastic waste in the sea, including picking up litter when they are on our local beaches.”
An Environment Agency spokesman said: “The Environment Agency is aware that Blackpool Council are disappointed at not being able to apply for Blue Flag status this year. We have been working to understand why there has been this slight change in water quality, results show that the main sources of bacteria at the bathing water were from Seabirds, Human and Ruminant.
“There are a number of factors that can affect water quality at Blackpool South and although it is disappointing it is no longer holds its ‘Excellent’ classification this does not mean the water is any less safe to use.
“The drop to ‘good’ indicates a very small change to the water quality, which is still higher than the minimum standards required.
“Water quality has improved a huge amount in Lancashire over the past two decades – a reflection of the work and dedication of Environment Agency staff working alongside colleagues from water companies, local authorities, farmers, volunteers and other organisations. We are also part of the Turning Tides partnership that works in the North West to improve the quality of bathing waters.
“We are proud of where we are in terms of bathing water quality, but will continue to work hard to keep our beaches clean, reduce pollution and protect our environment.
“You’ll see our samplers out and about throughout the summer months as they test and record water quality to ensure it is maintained and improved.”
Beach-goers can check the water quality at their nearest bathing water spot by visiting the Environment Agency’s Bathing Water Data Explorer website.
208 awards are handed out
In total, Keep Britain Tidy presented 208 awards to England’s best beaches, including 71 international Blue Flags and 137 Seaside Awards this year.
The environmental charity’s chief executive Allison Ogden-Newton said: “The success of the 156 beaches in reaching the very high standards demanded by both awards is testament to all those who have worked so hard to protect and improve our beaches – from beach managers and volunteers to local people and businesses.
“When you enjoy a trip to a beach flying an international Blue Flag or Seaside Award, you know you are on one of the safest, cleanest and very best in the country.”
She added: “Visiting beaches with the Blue Flag or Seaside Award status means beach-goers can feel more relaxed in a setting that is environmentally considerate.
“We as individuals feel emotionally connected to the environment more than ever, with so many experiencing eco-anxiety. Keep Britain Tidy continues to push for more environmentally responsible beaches, where visitors needn’t feel this stress.
“We’re incredibly pleased to have even more winners this year than last, proving the great dedication of the beach staff. From environmental education for the local community and ensuring responsible beach use, to cleaning regimes and an increasing number of recycling facilities, it is a full-time commitment to create beaches worthy of the awards.”
Fylde coast wins nine Seaside Awards
Beaches across the Fylde coast raked in an impressive haul of Seaside Awards from Keep Britain Tidy.
Blackpool South beach lost its Blue Flag status due to a drop in water quality. However, the resort received Seaside Awards for all its beaches, including Blackpool South, Central, North and Bispham.
Wyre Council also retained its Seaside Awards for Rossall Beach, Ferry Beach and Marine Beach in Fleetwood, and Jubilee Beach in Cleveleys.
A Seaside Award was also given to St Annes beach for the fifth year in a row.
Alison Boden, coast and countryside manager at Wyre Council, said: “The awards are recognition for our beautiful beaches and all that hard work that goes into managing them.
“Here at Wyre we work all year round to maintain our 8.5km long stretch of coastline to the high standard that residents and visitors have come to expect. The awards can only be achieved with additional support from the many volunteers who take part in community beach cleans along the coast every week and we thank them for their continued help.”
In order to maintain the bathing water standards, dogs are not allowed on Marine Beach and Jubilee Beach from 1 May to September 30.
Ms Boden added: “We recognise that people love taking their dogs on to the beach and prom and we want everyone to enjoy our great outdoors, but we do ask people to keep their pets away from two sections of the beach during summer.
“This is because these sections form the bathing beach areas, they are popular for people going into the sea for a paddle and some users come because of this. We want to make sure it’s as clean as possible. Where dogs are allowed, dog owners must pick up their mess and all beach users must take away their litter for the benefit of everyone and the marine life.”
‘Eco-anxiety’ is common
Research from Keep Britain Tidy revealed that 74 per cent of people under the age of 35 say they feel guilt when they go to the beach and see plastic litter.
Almost two thirds (60 per cent) of young people experience ‘eco-anxiety’ when seeing tourist destinations littered with plastic and no sustainable facilities to dispose of it.
Some 78 per cent said they would avoid visiting a beach without a Blue Flag or Seaside Award for this reason.
Some 54 per cent of people said the nature documentaries fronted by Sir David Attenborough have encouraged them to personally clear up discarded litter, with the average 16 to 34-year-old collecting three to four pieces of rubbish on their trip.
A spokesman said: “Research shows we are a generation of eco-worriers, with 80 per cent saying they would feel more relaxed spending the day at a beach that has recycling bins and signs encouraging people not to leave anything behind.
“A huge 88 per cent of all respondents say that their eco-anxiety is lessened by knowing hundreds of beaches in the UK are following and implementing programmes that encourage responsible beach use, as recognised in the Blue Flag and UK Seaside Awards, including environmental education and cleaning regimes.
“People would choose to visit a beach recognised in the Blue Flag and UK Seaside Awards mainly because they know the water will be clean (38 per cent), they feel good about supporting a beach that cares about the environment (35 per cent) and don’t have to worry themselves wondering if the beach is going to be dirty.”