Britain's 'Blue Flag' beaches could be STRIPPED of coveted status

Many of Britain’s ‘Blue Flag’ beaches – meant to be the UK’s cleanest – could lose their prized status because of sewage.

Official figures show that the beaches were soiled 1,719 times with sewage last year.

In all, water companies polluted the finest stretches of coast in England and Wales for 15,000 hours.

The findings were branded ‘extremely worrying’ by the international body that awards the Blue Flags and could mean the beaches are stripped of their coveted status.

The worst pollution was at Poppit Sands Beach in Pembrokeshire, with sewage discharged 79 times for a total of 1,519 hours, analysis of official Environment Agency figures by the Liberal Democrats shows. 

England’s worst-hit Blue Flag beach was Sandown on the Isle of Wight. It had sewage dumped in its waters 79 times in 2021, lasting 1,295 hours.

Other Blue Flag resorts with beaches suffering from sewage include those at Brighton, Scarborough, Southwold, Brixham and Whitstable. The Lib Dems analysed data from all 102 Blue Flag beaches in England and Wales, finding sewage pollution at 55.

Johann Durand, the international blue flag director at the Foundation for Environmental Education, said: ‘The situation regarding raw sewage being dumped is extremely worrying, for the Blue Flag beaches and beyond. Everyone should be able to enjoy safe and healthy waters.

‘The renewal of the Blue Flag award is not automatic. The timeframe to apply for the award for the 2023 season will open soon and all data from the previous season will be checked. If sites do not comply with the bathing water criteria, this can have an impact on the receipt of the Blue Flag.’

England’s sewage companies have been legally permitted to release sewage in waterways for years, through storm overflow pipes. But new legislation means they are now obliged to reduce the amount they release.

In England over the past two years there have been 772,001 sewage discharges lasting for 5,751,517 hours, while in Wales there have been 203,071 lasting 1,687,475 hours.

Meanwhile, water company executives have paid themselves £51million including £30.6million in bonuses over the same period.

Water companies are regularly fined for polluting beaches and rivers.

This week, for example, Anglian Water was fined £563,609 after a failure at Doddinghurst Water Recycling Centre, near Brentwood, Essex, in September 2018, which let 3.9million litres of sewage into Doddinghurst Brook, killing invertebrates and fish over a two-mile stretch.