Better weather last summer has delivered a bonus for beaches in the North East this year.
The Marine Conservation Society grants Recommended status for beaches with excellent water quality.
And the driest summer last year since 2003 in the UK has resulted in more bathing beaches than ever being Recommended in the society’s annual Good Beach Guide which is launched today.
After the top rating of Recommended comes Guideline, for higher water quality, then Mandatory for meeting the minimum standard followed by fail.
A total of 23 North East beaches achieved Recommended status, and there were no failures.
Most beaches upgraded their rating and two, Seaton Sluice and Spittal near Berwick in Northumberland, bounced back from Fail to make the Recommended level.
Cullercoats in North Tyneside also jumped from the minimum Mandatory to make Recommended.
MCS coastal pollution officer, Rachel Wyatt said it’s hoped the latest figures will boost tourism after several previously wet summers which led to a drop in bathing water quality from pollution running into the sea from rural and urban areas and sewers overloaded with storm water.
“It’s great news that we are able to recommend more beaches than ever for excellent water quality and it shows just how good British beaches can be,” she said.
“The main challenge now is maintaining these standards, whatever the weather.
“Most people don’t realise what a big impact the weather can have on bathing water quality.
“This has really been highlighted in the last few years. 2008, 2009 and 2012 were, according to the Met Office, amongst the wettest summers on record since 1910, and fewer UK bathing waters met minimum and higher water quality standards because of increased pollution .”
A Northumbrian Water spokeswoman said: “We are very pleased with the North East’s results in this year’s MCS guide which reflect the significant amount of work and investment by Northumbrian Water to help clean up our region’s bathing waters. The impact of run-off from agricultural land and fields after wet weather is also highlighted.
“We are not complacent and will be investing a further £4 million between 2010 and 2015 on bathing water schemes in areas including Spittal, Newbiggin by the Sea, Cullercoats and Seaham.”
By the end of the 2015 bathing season, all designated bathing waters must meet the new minimum Sufficient standard due to the revised EU Bathing Water Directive.
This will be around twice as stringent as the current minimum standard and means that some beaches will need to do more to make the grade in the future which could include reducing pollution from sewage discharges, agricultural run-off and urban diffuse pollution, fixing mis-connected sewers and putting in place more steps to help dog owners clean up after their pets.
Beaches which don’t meet the Sufficient standard at the end of 2015 will have to display signs warning against bathing in the sea from the start of the bathing season in 2016.
“Water companies and local authorities must continue to improve sewerage infrastructure and reduce diffuse pollution so that eventually we will only need such warnings during and after exceptionally wet weather,” said Rachel Wyatt.
North East results: County Durham: Seaton Carew North Gare Recommended (last year Mandatory); Seaton Carew Centre Recommended (Mandatory ); Seaton Carew North Mandatory (Fail); Crimdon Recommended (Mandatory);Seaham Swimming Club Beach Recommended (Not tested ); Seaham Beach Mandatory (Mandatory); Seaham Hall Mandatory (Fail).
Tyne and Wear: Roker and Seaburn, both Guideline ( both Mandatory); Marsden Mandatory (Mandatory); South Shields, Tynemouth King Edward’s Bay, Longsands, Whitley Bay, all maintained their Recommended rating.
Northumberland: Blyth South Beach Recommended (Mandatory); Newbiggin South, Newbiggin North and Druridge Bay South retained Recommended status.
Druridge Bay North Recommended (Mandatory); Low Newton Recommended (Guideline); Beadnell Recommended (Guideline).
Also keeping their Recommended rating were Amble Links, Warkworth, Seahouses and Bamburgh Castle.