Page last updated at 14:09 GMT, Monday, 2 June 2008 15:09 UK

UK gets high rating for beaches

Bathers on a Spanish beach
EU states have to meet minimum water quality standards

Britain's beaches have received a 96.5% rating for cleanliness in an EU report.

The 2007 figure for the UK's coastal bathing water is a slight drop on the previous year, but still above the overall EU compliance figure of 95%.

Beaches in Greece, Cyprus, Finland and the Netherlands got top marks. Only 29% of Romania's beaches met the standard.

The European Commission's annual bathing water report found that the quality of coastal swimming areas across the EU stayed stable in 2007.

"Bathing water quality remains high in the EU," said Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas.

A total of 584 bathing areas were monitored in the UK - 573 on the coast (including six in Gibraltar), and 11 freshwater sites.

The 96.5% compliance figure for coastal waters represents a 3.1% drop compared with 2006. No coastal bathing sites had to be closed during the swimming season.

UK government officials blamed last summer's torrential rain for the slight slippage in British bathing water quality.

The percentage of UK bathing sites complying with the EU's mandatory values has been above 90% since 1999.

A new EU Bathing Water Directive sets out stricter requirements for the 27 member states which will have to be fulfilled by 2015.

In 2007 the EU monitored 21,368 bathing areas - 14,551 on the coast and 6,797 inland freshwater sites.

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