Saltburn beach to lose Blue Flag status over decline in bathing water quality

Saltburn is set to lose its Blue Flag beach status due to a decline in bathing water quality. Credit: PA

Saltburn is set to lose its Blue Flag status due to a decline in bathing water quality.

The beach was the only one between Whitby, in North Yorkshire, and Roker, on the outskirts of Sunderland, to boast the internationally recognised certification which was awarded to 80 beaches in England last year.

While this year’s results will not be announced until May, Keep Britain Tidy, which manages the certification process in the UK on behalf of the Foundation for Environmental Education, confirmed it is not eligible to apply this year.

It had previously won the Blue Flag award for four years in a row.

Saltburn’s bathing water quality, based on samples previously taken by the Environment Agency, which calculates the results of tests, fell from "excellent" to "good".

Water quality is an important part of the criteria, with a Blue Flag certification meaning beaches have to meet the "excellent" quality standard as set out in the EU’s bathing water directive.

Beaches can gain or lose a Blue Flag each year with the award period running from the middle of May to the end of September, during which time the flag can be flown.

Councillor Steve Kay, the cabinet member for health and welfare at Redcar and Cleveland Council, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) that there had been “no evidence” provided to the council to suggest sewage was responsible for the drop in water quality.

In February last year sewage water spilled onto the beach at Saltburn after work on a car park extension led to a main pipe being accidentally damaged, although this happened three months before the Environment Agency’s testing period begins.

He also suggested there was no link the council was aware of with mass crustacean deaths on the region’s beaches which have caused concern among environmentalists, fishermen and politicians alike.

Cllr Kay said: "We are disappointed that Saltburn has not met the Blue Flag award criteria this year, but we are still proud that the quality of water is ‘good’. 

"There was no specific cause given to the drop from ‘excellent’, but many environmental factors can affect the results, such as rainfall, agriculture and livestock, as well as things such as run-off from road drainage.

"No evidence has been provided to the council to suggest this is linked to sewage or the crustacean deaths, which happened prior to the bathing water season of 2022 when the water was tested.

"The water in Saltburn is of good quality which enables us to apply for the Seaside Award, a nationwide standard for the best beaches across the UK. 

"This will ensure visitors and our residents that they can find a clean, safe, attractive and well-managed coastal stretch."

‘High levels of bacteria’

In August a sample found high levels of bacteria such as enterococci, which is found in human intestines, and e-coli in the sea at Saltburn.

This was attributed to a number of potential environmental causes such as rainfall, sea turbulence, land run-off, seaweed decay, bird droppings and the water temperature.

A spokeswoman for the Environment Agency, which tests water samples at Saltburn and other designated beaches weekly during the bathing season, said: “We are of course disappointed to see a drop in water quality at this site, which we know is so important to the local community and enjoyed by many visitors. 

“The North East has some of the country’s most fantastic bathing waters – with 94% rated ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ – and Saltburn is rated as good this year.”

An Environment Agency profile published online for Saltburn shows there was one pollution risk warning issued for bathing water last year.

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