Region's beaches still best in country

THE current spell of appalling weather may not inspire you to don your Speedos and head to the coast for a spot of sun bathing but the region's beaches are still among some of the best in the country.

Mark Lord

THE current spell of appalling weather may not inspire you to don your Speedos and head to the coast for a spot of sun bathing but the region's beaches are still among some of the best in the country.

Golden sands throughout Suffolk and Essex were awarded the prestigious Blue Flag yesterday - the internationally recognised symbol of a clean and well-managed beach.

Tourism chiefs in both counties have welcomed the announcement and are hoping the weather clears up in time for a bumper summer.

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Coastlines at Southwold Pier and Lowestoft, both north and south of Claremont Pier, were honoured - the sixth year running the beaches have received the much sought-after Blue Flag.

Meanwhile Southwold beach north picked up a Quality Coast Award at the first time of asking, along with Southwold Denes and Kessingland.

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Wendy Mawer, Waveney District Council portfolio holder for regeneration, was delighted with the news.

“Our beaches have taken a battering this winter, which can not only upset their natural balance, but can cause no end of trouble for the teams that clean and maintain them,” she said. “However, they work extremely hard to keep them at this high standard and we have been rewarded yet again.

“For the sixth consecutive year the water quality, cleanliness and facilities at our beaches have been acknowledged and I'd like to thank all those involved.

“This prestigious award demonstrates how hard the teams and many keen volunteers work to keep our beaches in award-winning condition for residents and visitors alike.”

Asa Morrison, principal service manager for culture, tourism and sport at Waveney, added: “Our beaches are some of our finest assets. Accolades such as the Blue Flag are of great benefit to the local tourism industry.

“The Sunrise Coast Visitor Survey 2007 identified that just over 75% of visitors to the area went to or intended to visit our beaches during their stay, highlighting just how important they are to Waveney's £215.9 million tourism economy.”

Despite being closed for repair work Felixstowe's south beach has also kept its Blue Flag status.

A spokesman for Suffolk Coastal District Council said: “This year's announcement coincides with the beach being temporarily closed while the much-needed £10m coastal defence scheme is underway.

“This work will deliver by the end of the summer, not only permanent protection from flooding for 1,600 homes and businesses, but also the guarantee of an even better beach with the new groynes helping to keep the sand where it should be.”

In Essex, eight of Tendring District Council's beaches have once again proved they are of award-winning quality - including Brightlingsea and Dovercourt Bay which have retained their Blue Flags.

Meanwhile six others - Clacton's Martello Bay and West Beach and Frinton-on-Sea, Walton-on-the-Naze and Harwich - have received Quality Coast Awards for the second successive year.

The Quality Coast Award was launched in 2007 and recognises the diversity and quality of England's coastline.

All beaches achieving this award have one thing in common - they have been recognised for providing the very best standards for their visitors.

Pierre Oxley, portfolio holder for leisure at Tendring, said it was great news and proved the district's golden sands were truly terrific.

“We submitted eight beaches for awards this year and all eight were successful - you can't do better than that,” he said.

The Quality Coast Awards were presented for the first time last year and replaced the previous Seaside Awards Scheme.

Cllr Oxley added: “Awards like this are very important as we know that people do their research and check out such information before deciding where to take their families.”

ENCAMS' European Blue Flag Awards recognise beaches throughout Europe, which fulfil strict criteria relating to both the water quality and the surrounding beach area.

For a beach to be considered it must have attained the guideline standard of the Bathing Water Directive before being assessed in various other areas.

The beach must also demonstrate that it provides and manages a range of facilities and contributes to public awareness of environmental issues.

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