Fewer beaches get blue flag awards
This is the way that some media outlets are reporting the fact that 55 beaches have been awarded Blue Flag status. It is slightly unfair in that the rules have changed since last year and it isn’t easy to compare like-with-like to say how many beaches would have been awarded the coveted status had the same rules been in force.
Beaches around Bournemouth and Poole, for example, have won four of the flags which might encourage people to visit next week when half-term is on. And surprisingly there are some days at the end of next week when the forecasted temperature will be over 20, – attractive beach weather then. Sandbanks probably deserves an award of its own as it celebrates 26 consecutive years of winning a Blue Flag. And how long has the Blue Flag award been in existence? 26 years.
It was Kent’s Thanet area that scooped most awards – eight in all. Botany Bay, Joss Bay, Westbrook, Minnis Bay, St Mildred’s Bay, West Bay in Westgate, Margate Main Sands and Stone Bay were the successful beaches. But another nine beaches in Kent have won the Seaside Awards so what is the difference between Blue Flag and Seaside Awards?
The short answer is that Blue Flag are at a higher status but Seaside Awards still mean that the beaches are free of litter and dog fouling and are rated clean. Blue Flag status means that there are more criteria that are used for judging before an award is given. The new Blue Flag criteria for this year also includes higher standards for water quality, which the EU is bringing in from 2015. Blue Flag adopted this same standard earlier than the EU and that is why some beaches missed out on what they might have been normally expected to achieve. Just to confuse matters, beaches can win both awards!
South Claremont Pier and Cromer
, two of the beaches visited by CD-Traveller in January, were also awarded Blue Flags as were Sea Palling and Sheringham in East Anglia.
A drop in numbers was also seen when the Welsh Blue Flag awards were handed out last week when Pembrokeshire beaches gained eleven awards and Anglesey ones, seven.
Some have criticised the awards saying they are overly critical but the strongest criticism I would make is that they reflect what the beach was like a season ago. It could be that there have been substantial improvements since which would not be reflected until next year. But that also means that the quality could have declined since the tests were carried out.
Use your own judgement to decide.