Where are the best beaches?

TWO of Suffolk's top coastal resorts have lost their prestigious Blue Flags, used to identify exceptionally clean and well-managed beaches across Europe.

Elliot Furniss

TWO of Suffolk's top coastal resorts have lost their prestigious Blue Flags, used to identify exceptionally clean and well-managed beaches across Europe.

Both Southwold Pier and Felixstowe South beaches have been reduced to “Quality Coast” status in the ENCAMS European Blue Flag Awards 2009, overseen by Keep Britain Tidy.

Southwold Pier narrowly missed out on attaining Blue Flag status, which Waveney District Council has attributed to poor weather during last summer and the marginal effect this had on “overall water quality”.

However, two beaches in Waveney have met the required Blue Flag standards - those in Lowestoft North and South of Claremont Pier.

Another four beaches have been given Quality Coast status, bringing the number of award-winning beaches in the district to six.

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Waveney District Council's Asa Morrison, principal service manager for culture, tourism and sport, said: “Our beaches are a wonderful asset and accolades such as the Blue Flag and Quality Coast Awards are the icing on the cake.

“We are delighted that Lowestoft will once again be flying the Blue Flag and while the poor weather last year prevented Southwold from reaching the required standard, the 'Quality Coast' award proves that, overall, it remains one of the country's premier resorts and a genuine jewel in the east.”

Community leaders in Felixstowe were left frustrated after the resort's main holiday beach lost its prestigious European Blue Flag - because of a delay in analysing its water quality.

Keep Britain Tidy has confirmed it is to help the town lodge an appeal.

A spokesman said: “We are very sorry about Felixstowe South's loss of Blue Flag status following problems with the testing procedure.

“We feel Felixstowe should have a Blue Flag and will be helping them with a formal appeal to the Foundation for Environmental Education, the international awarding body.

“Felixstowe has devoted considerable resources to an improvement programme in recent years and this setback is no reflection on their efforts.

“We have every confidence in the beach's commitment to quality and hope to see a Blue Flag proudly flying there as soon as possible.”

For the past seven years, since the multi-million pound Clearwater project to stop raw sewage being pumped out to sea, the resort's south beach - from the pier to the amusement park - has enjoyed Blue Flag status.

An Environment Agency spokesman said: “There was a delay between the samples being collected and them being analysed. This delay meant that they didn't fully meet our quality control procedures which require analysis of a bathing water sample to start within 24 hours of collection.

“We are confident that the water quality at Felixstowe South is excellent and would have passed Blue Flag standards.”

A Suffolk Coastal council spokesman said: “This is a really frustrating breach of the rules as all the evidence shows that our water quality at Felixstowe South is excellent.

“All the tests before and after the missing period show that the water quality met all the tough criteria, and indeed the tests that EA managed to carry out north of this beach were officially excellent.”

Phil Barton, chief executive of Keep Britain Tidy, said that with all the “doom and gloom” around, holidaying in England was the perfect way of saving money and having a great time.

He said: “Whether it's a question of variety, accessibility or value for money, enjoying wonderful beaches like those in the East of England is the ideal way to recharge your batteries.”

The East of England has received a total of 32 awards - 12 Blue Flags and 20 Quality Coast Awards - which is a rise of two from 2008.