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STORM WARNING; Watchdogs say region's beaches on the decline.

Byline: By AMY HUNT

THE standard of water on North East beaches is declining.

Fewer beaches in the region boast excellent water quality, watchdogs say.

Stormy weather last summer is being blamed for a drop in the number of coastal resorts recommended in the Marine Conservation Society (MCS)'s Good Beach Guide this year.

Three beaches along our coast have dropped down the standards scale since the previous year.

And the MCS is warning climate change triggering a greater number of storms in the future will make it much harder for swimmers to know where it is safe to take a dip.

It says more cash needs to be used to make sure our drains can cope with flash floods, which can wash raw sewage off land and into seas if the sewers overflow.

Despite a fall in the number of beaches making the "recommended" standard for the Good Beach Guide, the North East still has some of the best quality beaches in the UK and is second only to the South West as the region enjoying the highest percentage of MCS Recommended beaches this year.

Tynemouth Longsands North, Seaburn and Roker beaches have all dropped from being "recommended" to a lower standard of "guideline" or "basic pass".

Cullercoats and Newbiggin North both achieved "a basic pass", the same standard as last year.

The water at beaches used by families and for watersports such as surfing are tested by the Environment Agency during the bathing season, from May to September, for bacteria which can cause illness.

Last summer was the wettest ever in Britain and nationally the MCS reported a 10% drop in the number of bathing beaches with excellent water quality, compared to the year before, the biggest year-on-year fall in the 21-year history of the Good Beach Guide. Beaches failing the minimum legal standard more than tripled from 17 to 53.

Thomas Bell, MCS Coastal Pollution Officer, said: "We're pinning the blame squarely on last summer's exceptionally bad weather.

"Heavy rain sweeps pollutants like raw sewage, street debris and animal waste directly from the land into rivers and sea."

The Good Beach Guide, published in support of the MCS Campaign for Clean Seas and in partnership with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), is available at www.good-beachguide.co.uk

Coastal survey

OUR beaches in 2008: Roker, Basic pass Seaburn Beach, Basic pass Marsden, Recommended Sandhaven, South Shields, Recommended Tynemouth King Edward's Bay, Recommended Tynemouth Longsands South, Recommended Tynemouth Longsands North, Guideline Cullercoats, Basic pass Whitley Bay, Recommended Seaton Sluice, Recommended Blyth, South Beach, Recommended Newbiggin South, Recommended Newbiggin North, Basic passDruridge Bay, Recommended Amble Links, Recommended Warkworth, Recommended Low Newton, Recommended Beadnell Bay, Recommended Seahouses, Recommended Bamburgh Castle, Recommended

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SANDS OF TIME: Water quality at Tynemouth has fallen. Cullercoats and Newbiggin achieved a basic pass
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:May 23, 2008
Words:470
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