Blue flag rulings on region's beaches

Ed FossFour beaches across Norfolk failed to come up to scratch in water quality tests this summer, meaning those which wanted a sought-after blue flag will not be able to have one.Ed Foss

Four beaches across Norfolk and Suffolk failed to come up to scratch in water quality tests this summer, meaning those which wanted a sought-after blue flag will not be able to have one.

Old Hunstanton, Mundesley and Southwold's two tested beaches - the Pier and The Denes - fell at one of the key hurdles for blue flag status, which rewards the highest quality in water, facilities, safety, environmental education and management.

Not all would have applied for the blue flag because it requires other qualifications, but the news is certainly a blow for Mundesley and Southwold, where blue flags have flown proudly in the past.

And a fifth beach - Cromer - only passed the water quality tests by the narrowest of margins.

One of the key impacts of the blue flag scheme is to encourage those responsible for beaches, whether local authorities or private estates, to improve the quality of the offering for both tourists and locals.

There is also good news around Norfolk, with Gorleston, Heacham and the main beach at Hunstanton going from below standard water quality in 2008 to full passes this year, meaning they would be able to qualify for blue flags if the rest of their facilities are up to scratch.

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All beaches in the East Anglian region gained the "mandatory pass" in their water quality this year, but six, made up of the four mentioned plus Walton and Clacton in Essex, did not manage to score the higher "guideline pass" necessary for blue flag qualification.

Cromer was lucky with its readings, having registered the two allowable weekly fails in the faecal coliforms test and a third - which would have meant an overall failure - at the absolute maximum allowed.

Karl Read, leisure and cultural services manager at North Norfolk District Council, said: "We are going to lose the blue flag at Mundesley because it has not made the standard.

"It was a very close call and it only just failed, but the standards are stringent."

Mr Read said the other three north Norfolk beaches with current blue flags - Sea Palling, Sheringham and Cromer - were expected to receive their blue flags for next season "unless something extraordinary happens".

A minimum of 20 water quality samples were taken for each beach. Tests run from two weeks before the start of the formal bathing season, which runs from May 15 to September 30.

This year, six of Norfolk and north Suffolk's beaches flew the blue flag - Cromer, Mundesley, Sea Palling, Sheringham, Lowestoft north of Claremont Pier and Lowestoft south of Claremont Pier.

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