Nine UK beaches stripped of Blue Flag status after water quality tumbles

Councillors said they are “disappointed” at the result and investigations will be carried out in the coming months to “identify the pollution source”

Nine beaches across the UK have lost their Blue Flag status this year after the quality of the water was demoted from ‘excellent’ to ‘good’ by the Environment Agency.

The Blue Flag awards, announced by environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy on Tuesday (16 May), recognise the quality of the beaches, the way they are managed and the facilities they offer to visitors.

This year 77 beaches in England met the high standard required for the Blue Flag international award. But when comparing this year’s winners to last years, nine beaches have dropped off the awards list.

The councils were unable to put forward these specific beaches for the award because the Environment Agency had already classified in November last year that the water quality was only ‘good’, not ‘excellent’.

Brighton beach was one which lost its Blue Flag status this year. A council spokesperson said it was “unable to apply” for the Blue Flag awards“as only beaches which have ‘excellent’ bathing water are eligible”.

Nine UK beaches stripped of Blue Flag status as water quality tumbles. (Photo: NationalWorld/Mark Hall) Nine UK beaches stripped of Blue Flag status as water quality tumbles. (Photo: NationalWorld/Mark Hall)
Nine UK beaches stripped of Blue Flag status as water quality tumbles. (Photo: NationalWorld/Mark Hall)

Recent analysis of Environment Agency data by the Liberal Democrats showed one of the worst-hit beaches for sewage last year was Brighton beach, with Southern Water discharging sewage here 45 times in 2022, over more than 107 hours.

Teignbridge District Council was also unable to put Teignmouth beach in Devon up for the Blue Flag award after an Environment Agency investigation of the water did not find it to be “excellent”.

A council spokesperson said they were “disappointed” by the result as the investigation was unable to identify the cause, “showing it was a dry day, no sewer overflows and no pollution risk forecasting notifications.”

The council added that “extra investigations” will be carried out “during the coming months” to “identify the pollution source”.

In January climate change activists, sea swimmers and local people marched through Teignmouth demanding an end to the practice of allowing sewage to be pumped into the sea.

West Bay beach in Dorset also lost its title with a Thanet District Council spokesperson saying this happened “due to a single water quality reading which affected the overall results for the bay”.

The spokesperson added: “Council officers, in partnership with Southern Water and the Environment Agency, are investigating the cause of this water quality result. We are committed to improving or maintaining bathing water quality at all of our bays.”

In October last year the beach was deemed unsafe to swim in after it was polluted by sewage following heavy rainfall.

Three beaches in Norfolk were also demoted including Mundesley beach which closed in March due to raw sewage spilling onto the beach after a pipe burst at the nearby Anglian Water pumping station.

Councillor Tim Adams, Leader of North Norfolk District Council, said the sites are “still excellent beaches and destinations for visitors” and “we continue to work with Anglian Water and the Environment Agency to achieve the return of the Blue Flag status at those remaining beaches as soon as possible.”

UK beaches that have lost their Blue Flag status

Keep Britain Tidy’s chief executive Allison Ogden-Newton OBE said the Blue Flag award is “the world’s most recognised” and for beaches to qualify they must “meet and maintain a series of stringent environmental, educational, safety and accessibility criteria”.

The criteria that the beaches are assessed against include:

  • Safety and services, such as first aid, lifeguards where necessary 
  • Environmental information, including displaying details about local ecosystems 
  • Water quality – Blue Flag beaches must meet the ‘excellent’ water quality standard as set out in the EU bathing water directive. 
  • Environmental management, including litter and waste. 

Listed are the beaches which have lost their Blue Flag status this year and were unable to put forward the site for the title:

North East

  • Saltburn by the Sea, North Yorkshire
  • Sandhaven South Shields, South Shields 

South West

  • Teignmouth Town, Devon

South East

  • Brighton Central, Brighton
  • West Bay, Dorset
  • Leysdown Beach, Kent 

East of England

  • Sea Palling, North Norfolk
  • Mundesley, North Norfolk
  • East Runton, North Norfolk 

NationalWorld contacted Keep Britain Tidy for comment on the beaches that lost their status. The charity told us it does not comment on sites that did not apply for awards this year.