Graphic: Find out how your beach scores in new coastal report

Water quality is the best it's ever been off our beaches. Picture: Ian Burt

Water quality is the best it's ever been off our beaches. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant © 2004

Last summer didn’t just bring us week after week of beach weather - it didn’t do our beaches any harm either.

Water quality standards of beaches in the south east Water quality standards of beaches in the south east

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More of them than ever have been recommended for their excellent water quality in the annual Good Beach Guide out today.

Experts say the long, dry summer helped cut pollutants being washed out to sea. And while water quality has fallen at one or two of Norfolk’s favourites, most beaches in the county and neighbouring Suffolk remain in the highest category.

While Hunstanton Beach has moved from the minimum standard to the best, neighbouring Heacham and Old Hunstanton beaches have both fallen to the minimum standard.

Lowestoft Beach, south of the Claremont Pier, has also fallen from the best to minimum standard.

Lucy Downing, brand manager of Visit North Norfolk, said: “Clean water certainly does help tourism because we are known as a family destination. To know that Norfolk has got wilderness with clean water is real draw.

“Clean waters will help people decide where to go on their holiday. People look for clean waters and blue flag beaches. People do care that their children go into healthy water.”

A spokesman for Waveney District Council said: “There are any numbers of reasons why on the specific day of testing a beach may fail to reach the very highest standards.

“All of our beaches remain at an acceptable or outstanding standard and we continue to work hard to ensure that they remain so.”

Matthew Smith, who runs Sara’s Tearooms on South Beach Parade in Great Yarmouth with his parents, said having clean seas was “most definitely” a bonus to tourism.

“Great Yarmouth’s biggest selling point is the beach and the sea and the views that it offers. Before anything the reasons why people come to the area, whether they’re locals or people on holiday, always seems to come back to that we’re by the sea,” he added.

“It’s one of things you can come to Great Yarmouth and experience for free.

“A lot of people come to our business where they can sit outside and take in the sea views. And having a clean sea is really important because people wouldn’t want to be looking at anything dirty.”

Ben Riches, from Ben’s Fishing Trips in Wells, said: “I don’t think it makes any difference to us really.

“I’ve never had any customers mention the clean water to us and I just don’t think enough people know about it.

“We are busy now and things are picking up nicely as the season starts to get under way.”

The guide is published by the Marine Conservation Society, which has recommended 538 out of 734 UK beaches tested during last summer as having excellent water quality.

That’s 135 more than the previous year and there were also fewer failures, with just 14 beaches tested failing to reach the minimum water quality standards.

MCS coastal pollution officer Rachel Wyatt said the latest figures wuld be a boost to UK tourism after several previously wet summers which led to a drop in bathing water quality from pollution running into the sea from rural and urban areas and overloaded sewers.

“It’s great news that we are able to recommend more beaches than ever for excellent

water quality and it shows just how good British beaches can be,” she said.

“The main challenge now is maintaining these standards, whatever the weather.

Most people don’t realise what a big impact the weather can have on bathing water

quality, but this has really been highlighted in the last few years.”

By the end of the 2015 bathing season, all designated bathing waters must meet the new

minimum ‘sufficient’ standard set out in the revised EU Bathing Water Directive.

This will be around twice as stringent as the current minimum standard and means that some

beaches will need to do more to make the grade in the future which could include

reducing pollution from sewage discharges, farm run-off and putting in place more steps to help dog owners clean up after their pets.

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