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Last Updated: Monday, 15 May 2006, 10:21 GMT 11:21 UK
Rise in Blue Flags beach awards
Children on a beach
The awards highlight the best and safest beaches
The number of beaches in England and Wales awarded coveted Blue Flags for their high standards of cleanliness and water quality has risen on last year.

Of the 120 awards made, 43 were issued in Wales, five more than last year, and 77 in England, an increase of 20.

Blue Flags, which also reward easy access to beaches and facilities, are issued across the world.

Alan Woods, the scheme's chief executive, urged all beaches to enter the scheme or risk getting left behind.

'Strive harder'

Among the big winners were Margate, which now has three resorts with Blue Flags, and Clacton now has its first in Martello Bay.

Bournemouth, Poole and Southend have four awards each and Torquay five.

Ainsdale is the North West of England re-entered the list - the region's only entry - while Bridlington North and Skegness are amongst eight beaches who have lost the status.

In England, the South West has the biggest concentration of winners, with 30 being awarded, a rise of four.

East Midlands - 0 beaches (three fewer than 2005)
East of England - 18 (four more)
North East - 5 (no change)
North West - 1 (one more)
South East - 17 (five more)
South West - 30 (four more)
Wales - 43 (five more)
Yorkshire - 6 (one more)

Mr Woods added: "British people make around 300 million trips to their coast each year and are increasingly attracted to Blue Flag beaches because they offer cleaner sand and seawater and better facilities.

"For any beach to compete in this more discerning age it must offer quality and I would urge all those who haven't entered the award or have been unable to meet its strict criteria to strive harder or risk being left behind."

'Major appeal'

Tom Wright, chief executive of VisitBritain, said: "The sheer variety of our beaches is a major appeal for visitors, whether it's gorgeous stretches of sand or pebbly shores for fossil-hunting, both are ideal for time-off with the kids or groups of friends."

The scheme now runs across Europe, the Caribbean, South Africa and parts of the USA.

Meanwhile, a new guide featuring Blue Flag resorts together with over 100 idyllic rural beaches has also been launched on Monday by VisitBritain.

The Blue Flag scheme is organised by FEE (Foundation for Environmental Education) and administered in England by ENCAMS and in Wales by Keep Wales Tidy.

Northern Ireland will reveal its Blue Flag results on 1 June and Scotland on 2 June.

Do you have any pictures of Blue Flag beaches? If so, you can send them to yourpics@bbc.co.uk or text them to 07725 100 100

Beach is named 'cleanest in UK'
01 Apr 05 |  Dorset

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