England

Blue Flag beach awards: Blackpool among England's 68 top resorts

Beach at Blackpool with tower behind Image copyright STEPHEN DEVLIN
Image caption Millions of pounds have been invested into Blackpool's water quality after much criticism

Blackpool has won its first Blue Flag award after one of its beaches met the international standard for cleanliness.

The popular resort has been criticised previously for its water quality but is now among 68 beaches in England to have secured the status this year.

Cornwall and Devon claimed the most Blue Flag awards with eight each, followed by Thanet in Kent with seven.

Keep Britain Tidy said there were seven more Blue Flag beaches for 2016 compared to last year.

Across England, 111 beaches were also given the Seaside Award, which recognises resorts that meet the highest standards of beach management and mandatory standards for water quality.

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Media captionBlackpool beach wins its Blue Flag award

Blackpool Council said it was a "remarkable turnaround" for the southern stretch of the town's beach, which is opposite the Pleasure Beach theme park.

In 2012, it failed to meet the Environment Agency's standards for clean water but became eligible for Blue Flag status after being classed as having "excellent" sea water quality last year.

The northern and central sections of the beach were considered at risk of failing to meet EU water quality standards in 2015 but have been given Seaside Awards this year.

Gillian Campbell, deputy leader of Blackpool Council, said: "Only four years ago every expert in the country was telling us we would fail the bathing water standards and have to put signs up advising people not to swim.

"That simply wasn't an option for us," she added.

Paul Todd, coastal award manager for Keep Britain Tidy, said: "It's great that we're able to award more beaches this year... Visitors can be sure that a Blue Flag or Seaside Award-winning beach is one of the best in the world."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption David Cameron and his wife Samantha have been regular visitors to Cornwall's Polzeath Beach, which was also awarded Blue Flag status this year
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Seven of Thanet's beaches were awarded the top accolade

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