18 of 21 Norfolk/Suffolk beaches get top award for water quality in guide
Eighteen of the 21 beaches in Norfolk and Suffolk have been given the top award for water quality in the latest Good Beach Guide - an increase of one on last year.
Three other beaches in the county achieved the minimum mandatory level of water cleanliness.
The beaches at Gorleston, Great Yarmouth South and Great Yarmouth Pier improved their ranking from mandatory last year to recommended in 2012.
However, The Denes and the Pier beaches in Southwold went from recommended to mandatory in the year while Heacham remained on mandatory for the second year.
The other recommended beaches in our area are Great Yarmouth North, Felixstowe North and South, Lowestoft, North and South of Claremont Pier, Caister Point, Hemsby, Sea Palling, Mundesley, Cromer, East Runton, Sheringham, Wells, Hunstanton (Old Hunstanton) and Hunstanton Main Beach.
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A spokesman for Waveney District Council said: 'We are delighted that our wonderful beaches continue to get recognition for their excellent water quality.
'Waveney takes great pride in having a number of beaches which attract thousands of happy visitors and this kind of survey reminds us all what great places they are to come to.'
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Across the country a record number of beaches have been given the top award for water quality in the latest Marine Conservation Society (MCS) guide.
The guide is based on testing carried out last summer, and shows that 516 out of 754 UK beaches were recommended for 'excellent' water quality - more than two-thirds (68pc) of the total number of bathing spots.
The results show an 8pc rise in the number of beaches getting the best grade on the previous year's figures and is the best set of results in 25 years of the guide.
However, 25 beaches failed to achieve even the mandatory levels of water cleanliness.
The MCS also warned the kind of heavy rains which have hit in the past week are bad news for the country's beaches, washing raw sewage from overflow pipes and pollution from towns and rural areas to bathing areas.
The group's latest guide also reveals areas which are not successfully tackling poor water quality, with four beaches at Blackpool and nearby St Anne's among those once again failing to reach mandatory levels for clean water.
The picture is patchy around the UK, with less than half (41pc) of Scotland's beaches getting the top grade, a 5pc drop on the previous year after the country was hit by heavy summer rains and above average rainfall in 2011.
The North West only achieved the top 'recommended' level for just over a fifth of its beaches.
With the first measurements being taken this summer under new, more stringent European Union water quality rules which come in in 2015, the MCS is warning against complacency over improving standards.
Coastal pollution officer Rachel Wyatt said: 'It's really important that local authorities, water companies and environmental regulators don't become complacent and take their collective feet off the pedal of continued environmental improvements.
'If that happens we could see a drop in the number of beaches recommended by us in the future, which could pose a risk to the great reputation British beaches have.'
One of the major threats to bathing water quality is overflow pipes which discharge raw sewage into rivers and the sea from sewer networks when heavy rain overloads the system with water from street drains.
The MCS has previously revealed there are about 31,000 of these 'combined sewer overflows'' around the country, more than three-quarters of which are not monitored to see how often they are discharging polluted water.
The conservation society is concerned that some of them are discharging untreated sewage dozens or even hundreds of times a year, far in excess of guideline levels.
The other risk to bathing waters caused by heavy rain is diffuse pollution washed into rivers and coastal areas from the countryside and towns as a result of downpours.