Clean beach gives Blue Flag boost

Stuart Robertson of St Annes Beach Huts (right) and Neil Graham of Fylde Council celebrate the 'excellent' rating for St Annes Beach
Stuart Robertson of St Annes Beach Huts (right) and Neil Graham of Fylde Council celebrate the 'excellent' rating for St Annes Beach

St Annes sands is among a number of Fylde Coast beaches which could be in contention for the area’s first ever Blue Flag.

Figures from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs show that almost all of the area’s sea water has passed strict new bathing water regulations, with three, including St Annes North as well as Blackpool South, being hailed for their ‘excellent’ sea water quality.

The classification puts the water quality at the three beaches – Fleetwood is the third – on course to be ranked among some of the best in the world, by becoming eligible for Blue Flag status, a certification by the Foundation for Environmental Education that a beach or marina meets its stringent standards.

The area of beach around St Annes Pier, which earned a Seaside Award from Keep Britain Tidy earlier this year, was meanwhile listed as ‘good’.

Coun Ben Aitken, chairman of Fylde Council’s Environmental Health and Housing Committee, said: “This is the second year running that the beaches in St Annes have excelled these tough new standards.

“Decades of work has gone into improving the quality of our sea water and it is now paying off. The bathing waters have rarely, if ever, been cleaner and that is great news for visitors and our tourist economy.

“We want to keep the work going and residents can help by simple steps such as ensuring their pets don’t foul the beach and ensuring their drains are correctly connected. “

Since 2011, the Fylde Peninsula Water Management Partnership – made up of Fylde, Blackpool and Wyre Councils, Lancashire County Council, the Environment Agency, United Utilities, Merlin Entertainments and Keep Britain Tidy - has worked to increase investment in the area’s sewer network, as well as creating teams of volunteers and businesses to look after the quality of the Fylde Coast’s seas.

United Utilities, responsible for water supply and sewerage, has invested £160m in huge storage tanks underneath Preston, as well as an extra £100m worth of infrastructure improvements.

The public LOVEmyBEACH campaign has also helped to improve sea water quality, with hundreds of volunteers doing Fylde coast beach cleans and dozens of local businesses signing up to be responsible companies.

Dr Pete Fox, director of Land and water at the Environment Agency, said: “Water quality at beaches is better than any time in living memory, with dramatic improvements having been made over the last few decades.”

Stuart Robertson of award-winning seafront business St Annes Beach Huts said: “It’s fantastic news! It wasn’t long ago there was talk of having to put up signs advertising people not to swim in sea at St Annes after they changed the criteria for testing the water quality, so to now be hailed as ‘excellent is credit to all the organisations and people that have worked hard to turn things around.

“I’m not sure visitors to the resort really come to swim in the sea in St Annes these days, but I have seen lots of people rolling up their trousers and paddling away barefoot this year and it’s good to know the water and beach is clean.”