Norfolk and Suffolk beaches - including Cromer, Hunstanton and Lowestoft - fly the flag for excellence

North Norfolk's beaches are leading the way in providing a clean, safe coast for visitors to the county to enjoy after scooping five seaside awards.

Cromer, Sheringham, Sea Palling and Mundesley have been named as some of the best in the country after retaining their Blue Flag status, while East Runton has won a Quality Coast Award (QCA).

The accolades, which praise the water quality, management, cleanliness and safety of resorts, have been handed out by anti litter charity Keep Britain Tidy.

The group also praised the qualities of Hunstanton beach after it retained both its blue flag and QCA, but a resort in neighbouring Suffolk has been given a mixed assessment, after being stripped of one of its titles but gaining another.

Southwold Pier beach lost its blue flag but won a QCA. Lowestoft beaches north and south of Claremont Pier held onto their blue flags while Southwold Denes and Kessingland resorts retained their QCA.

For the fourth year running Great Yarmouth and Gorleston beaches are absent from the list of award winners as tourism chiefs have opted out of the blue flag scheme. Great Yarmouth Borough Council has previously described the water quality tests as 'a lottery' but has said its beaches are kept in tip top condition.

All five of the north Norfolk resorts have already gained recommended status in the Marine Conservation Society's Good Beach Guide and North Norfolk District Council, which manages the coastal hot spots, was 'delighted' with the latest clutch of awards.

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Deputy leader John Lee said: 'This, following the comments we received in the Good Beach Guide, confirms the district as a wonderfully clean, tidy and safe place to live and to visit, with some of the best seaside resorts anywhere.'

Chris Bamfield, West Norfolk Council's executive director of leisure and public space, thought the awards would help promote Hunstanton beach.

He added: 'The weather is the really big factor but it's one of those things that are nice to have.'

To qualify for blue flag status resorts must achieve a high standard of bathing water quality, environmental education and information - such as clear signs and beach-related activities - and environmental management, including clean and accessible toilets and regular litter picks.

They must also adhere to safety measures.

? Anglian Water has signed up to a charity's sewage alert system. From today the system, pioneered by Surfers Against Sewage, will alert bathers by text message to pollution at 19 Norfolk and Suffolk beaches that could pose health risks.

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