Norfolk and Suffolk beaches glad to wave blue flag (except Yarmouth)

Resorts across the region are today celebrating success in the prestigious Blue Flag awards which recognise beach cleanliness.

Beaches from Southwold in the south to Hunstanton in the west are among 25 in the East of England to receive the internationally recognised accolade.

As well as passing Environment Agency bathing water quality tests on at least 17 out of 20 occasions during the season, the beaches have successfully met other strict criteria covering everything from litter to beach management.

However, for the third year running, Great Yarmouth and Gorleston beaches have boycotted the Keep Britain Tidy-administered scheme, borough council tourism officer Alan Carr dismissing its water quality tests as 'a lottery'.

In Waveney, the north Lowestoft beach and the sands south of Claremont pier have kept blue flags while the beach at Southwold pier has regained blue flag status after a two-year absence.

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Two further of the district's beaches - Southwold Denes and Kessingland - have received Keep Britain Tidy Quality Coast Awards, a recognition of overall beach standards.

Bernard Reader, chairman of Waveney Tourism Forum, said: 'Excellent news. Waveney has more awards for our beaches than anywhere else in Suffolk and Norfolk. This is a great achievement and can only increase tourism here.'

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Meanwhile, North Norfolk District Council is toasting four blue flags with Mundesley regaining its award after a year's absence and Cromer, Sea Palling and Sheringham retaining theirs.

Nick Baker, the council's strategic director for the environment, said, 'North Norfolk is one of the cleanest districts in the country and we have some of the best seaside resorts anywhere. These most recent blue flag awards are testament to the hard work carried out throughout the year in North Norfolk in order to provide clean and safe beaches for everyone to enjoy, whether they live on the coast or are a visitor to the area.'

Hunstanton keeps its blue flag and has also clinched a Quality Coast Award.

Explaining their reasons for boycotting the scheme, Mr Carr said: 'We are not convinced that visitors understand what blue flags mean.

'And when you fly a blue flag in 2011 it is based on evidence from the previous year which is a tad confusing.'

Mr Carr said the borough's beaches were kept in top notch condition but described the blue flag water quality tests as a lottery; if a test was carried out following a storm it could lead to a failure simply because of the inability of drains to cope with the deluge.

He said: 'You only have to look at a packed Gorleston beach on a sunny day to realise that people are not concerned whether a blue flag is flying.'

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