What is a Blue Flag beach?

THE Blue Flag is an internationally-recognised award for a beach environment, and is awarded in 49 countries around the world.

But what does a beach have to do to gain Blue Flag status – and how many are there in the UK?

What is a Blue Flag beach?

A Blue Flag Beach has an award that tells you what you can expect to find at the beach in terms of accessibility, biodiversity, safety and water quality, no matter where in the world the beach is.

The Blue Flag scheme was launched in 1987, and is an internationally-recognised award for beach environment, operated by the Foundation for Environmental Education.

It is one of the world’s most recognised voluntary awards by beach-goers, tour operators, and mariners.

A central aim of the program is to connect people with their environment.

At a Blue Flag beach, you can find pure water, a clean coastline, access for all, and top-class safety features.

How many Blue Flag beaches are in the UK?

There is currently a total of 182 Blue Flag beaches across the UK – 77 of these can be found in England.

This means that England now boasts more Blue Flag beaches than South Africa, Cyprus, or Mexico.

The majority of England's Blue Flag beaches can be found in the south-west, in Devon, Cornwall, and Dorset.

Meanwhile, there are 52 Blue Flag beaches in Scotland, 45 in Wales, and eight in Northern Ireland.

How does a beach get Blue Flag status?

To achieve Blue Flag status, a beach needs to show that it meets 33 individual criteria in four main categories of assessment.

These categories are: environmental, educational, safety and accessibility.

Among other things, a Blue Flag beach needs to:

  • display information about its award
  • display a map of the beach detailing its facilities
  • maintain water quality: most importantly, no industrial waste or sewage should affect the beach
  • be kept clean
  • provide accessible public loos
  • be lifeguard patrolled
  • provide drinking water
  • have accessibility features
  • offer and promote activities relating to environmental education
  • have a site specific permanent display informing people about biodiversity, ecosystems, and other environmental points of interest.

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Can a beach lose its Blue Flag status?

Yes, once a beach has achieved Blue Flag status, it has to be maintained or the beach can lose the award.

In the 2021 awards, this happened to Botany Bay and Westbrook Bay, both in Kent.

Assessments are carried out every year, when beaches can lose their Blue Flag status if not properly maintained.

Blue Flag awards for UK beaches come out in June each year.

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