Blue Flag for 23 beaches

Northern Ireland has received more Blue Flags and Seaside Awards for beaches, seasides and Marinas than ever before, with the beaches of the north west retaining their top status.

Crawfordsburn Beach has received its first blue flag.

Environment Minister Alex Attwood announced that this year 11 of our best beaches were awarded the International Blue Flag, seven of our resort and rural beaches received the prestigious Seaside Award and two blue Flags were presented to marinas.

Commenting on the winners Minister Attwood said: “Today’s increase in Blue Flag and Seaside Awards is great news for Northern Ireland’s beach users and seaside towns as they know they can expect the best when they see a Blue Flag or a Seaside Award symbol. These beach awards recognise the high standard of facilities and management at our most popular beaches, as well as the water quality. The high number of awards this year reflects the excellent water quality recorded at our bathing waters last year. I have organised a number of Good Beach Summits to address the quality of our beach areas and it would seem that that work is bearing fruit.”

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The Minister also took the opportunity at the awards to launch a new beach web site for Northern Ireland .

Minister Attwood said: “A key ingredient identified by the ‘Good Beach Summits’ is the need for better public information on beaches and it has been a key priority of mine to ensure NIEA developed this website to showcase beaches in Northern Ireland which have been designated as EU Bathing Waters. should be the first port of call for both visitors and locals who want to enjoy a day at the beach. As well as posting news, events, and public comments which will help to improve standards even more in years to come.”

The new site developed by Outdoor recreation will provide a ‘one stop shop’ for information on 23 beaches by giving detailed and relevant information on each beach, its facilities and what activities can be undertaken there. In addition, the website will also act as a main information point for beach related news, events and blogs.

The Minister also noted that there are major roles for the public in helping to keep our beaches clean. DOE has introduced Clean Neighbourhoods legislation to give district councils more powers to tackle littering, dog fouling, fly tipping and other antisocial behaviour which spoils our urban, rural and coastal areas.

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The Minister added: “We all have a role to play in keeping our wonderful coastal areas clean. Don’t litter and remember to Bag It & Bin It. Don’t flush inappropriate items down the toilet. We must all be proud of our coastline and encourage others to come and enjoy it.”

The EC has raised the bar in terms of water quality. In years to come it may be even more difficult to win Blue Flag and Seaside Awards – not because of any deterioration in water quality but because the revised Bathing Waters Directive is setting even more stringent standards for water quality.

The Minister concluded: “The protection of public health is a high priority and I will continue to petition for funding to support improved efficiency and better protection for all of our coastal areas. Good water quality and the safety of beaches are key to our economy and tourism and we must strive to achieve highest quality standards for the enjoyment of Northern Ireland’s entire world famous coastline.”