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Coasting it in top awards; 8 NORTH BEACHES WIN BLUE FLAGS.

Byline: TONY HENDERSON

A TOP award will go to eight beaches in the North East today.

The prestigious Blue Flag is an international award, administered by Keep Britain Tidy in England, and is only given to coastal destinations which have achieved the highest quality in water, facilities, safety, environmental education and management, are free from litter and dog dirt, have good signage and information boards.

Four Blue Flags have been allocated to North Tyneside, which is the first time in five years that all of the area's beaches have been awarded the status.

The flag will now fly over beaches at Whitley Bay (south), Tynemouth Longsands (south), King Edward's Bay and Cullercoats Bay. All four have also earned Quality Coast Awards (QCA) , which commend beaches that are clean and where visitors can enjoy a range of activities.

Ed Hodson, council cabinet member for the environment, said: "We're thrilled. Cullercoats Bay has narrowly missed out over the past few years, which has been very disappointing and something our team has been working with partner organisations to put right.

"The Blue Flag awards supports our three-year seafront recovery plan."

Cullercoats Bay has previously met the standard set out in the European Union's bathing water directive but narrowly missed the required water quality standard for a Blue Flag.

The council has worked with the Environment Agency and Northumbrian Water to improve water quality in the area.

A dog ban is in force until September 30 on Cullercoats Bay, King Edwards Bay, Whitley Bay (south) and Tynemouth Longsands (south).

This means dogs are only allowed on a section of Whitley Bay beach north of Panama Gardens and at the northern end of Tynemouth Longsands.

Sandhaven in South Shields also has Blue Flag and QCA awards.

Tracey Dixon, South Tyneside Council lead member for culture and wellbeing said: "This is fantastic news. I'm absolutely delighted.

"These latest awards are not given lightly. They are hard to achieve and are yet another endorsement of the quality experience which visitors can enjoy at a top quality beach such as Sandhaven which offers superb facilities.

"Whatever people choose to do, whether it is building sandcastles, going for a paddle, enjoying free entertainment during our summer festival or simply going for a walk they can be confident that our beach and Foreshore are maintained to the highest standards.

"The council is currently working very hard to turn its vision for the Foreshore into a reality and is in the midst of a pounds 2m transformation programme to further enhance this wonderful asset."

Roker and Seaburn in Sunderland also won Blue Flags and QCA awards as did Seaton Carew in Hartlepool.

Phil Barton, Keep Britain Tidy's chief executive said: "North East beaches are fabulous places to visit and that's official.

" Eight Blue Flag and eight Quality Coast Awards prove North East beach managers continue to work hard to provide clean and safe beaches." Last year Cresswell in Northumberland won a QCA award after being entered by Castle Morpeth Council.

But Mike Jeffrey, countryside access and recreation manager at Northumberland County Council, said: "A decision was taken this year not to enter Cresswell beach into the Quality Coast Awards.

"While the award is an accolade to have, the new council felt that for consistency it would be necessary to enter all the eligible beaches in its control in Northumberland, and in order to do this the annual cost of entering the scheme would become prohibitive.

"However, we continue to manage our top quality beaches to the same high standards as ever."

A total of 150 beaches in England have received Blue Flags and QCAs.

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SUPER SANDS: A youngster plays in the sand on Tynemouth Beach
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 13, 2010
Words:616
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