New water quality high for beaches
A record number of beaches around the UK have been given the top award for water quality in the latest Good Beach Guide.
However the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) warned the kind of heavy rains which have hit in the past week are bad news for the country's beaches, washing raw sewage from overflow pipes and pollution from towns and rural areas to bathing areas.
The group's latest Good Beach Guide also reveals areas which are not successfully tackling poor water quality, with four beaches at Blackpool and nearby St Anne's among those once again failing to reach mandatory levels for clean water.
The results of the latest guide, based on testing carried out last summer, show that 516 out of 754 UK beaches were recommended for "excellent" water quality - more than two-thirds (68%) of the total number of bathing spots.
The results show an 8% rise in the number of beaches getting the best grade on the previous year's figures and is the best set of results in 25 years of the guide.
But 25 beaches failed to achieve even the mandatory levels of water cleanliness.
The picture is patchy around the UK, with less than half (41%) of Scotland's beaches getting the top grade, a 5% drop on the previous year after it was hit by heavy summer rains and above average rainfall in 2011. The North West only achieved the top "recommended" level for just over a fifth of its beaches.
With the first measurements being taken this summer under new, more stringent European Union water quality rules which come in in 2015, the MCS is warning against complacency over improving standards.
Coastal pollution officer Rachel Wyatt said: "It's really important that local authorities, water companies and environmental regulators don't become complacent and take their collective feet off the pedal of continued environmental improvements.
"If that happens we could see a drop in the number of beaches recommended by us in the future, which could pose a risk to the great reputation British beaches have."