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Last Updated: Friday, 4 June, 2004, 03:49 GMT 04:49 UK
Britain's clean beach tally rises
Dawlish Warren beach
Our beaches are "hugely improved"
The number of British beaches winning Blue Flag awards has improved by 618% in the past decade, the body behind the scheme has announced.

The clean beach awards have been given to 122 resorts this year, compared to just 12 in 1987, charity ENCAMS said.

It makes Britain the second most improved in Europe after Turkey, with a 1,158% improvement since 1994.

Across Europe, some 2,310 beaches have been awarded Blue Flags this year, with Britain now ranked eighth.

'Clean and safe'

Britain's results include 20 new entries and six re-entries. Nine of last year's winners have had their flags removed.
We were embarrassed about the torrid state of our beaches, with their dirty sands, clapped-out facilities and ageing architecture
Alan Woods, ENCAMS chief executive

Within Britain, Wales tops the Blue Flag table, with 35, followed by the south-west of England, with 25.

Bottom of the list is the north-west of England, which has been awarded its first award, at Ainsdale beach in Merseyside.

Alan Woods, chief executive of ENCAMS, said Britain rightly promoted its many picturesque and historic sites to tourists across the world but tended to do little to promote its coastline.

Regional Blue Flag count
East Midlands - 3
East of England - 14
Northern Ireland - 8
North-east England - 7
North-west England - 1
Scotland - 6
South-east England - 17
South-west England - 25
Wales - 35
Yorkshire - 6
He said: "This is because we were embarrassed about the torrid state of our beaches, with their dirty sands, clapped-out facilities and ageing architecture.

"Now that we have shed that image and are competing so successfully with beaches across Europe, we should stop being ashamed of what once was and start promoting what we have now - a hugely improved, clean and safe seaside."

Blue Flags are only given to beaches with good facilities, which offer life-saving equipment, maintain immaculately clean sands and have sea water clean enough to pass strict European laws.

Award winners are monitored regularly, with flags removed if standards slip.

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