The number of English beaches flying the Blue Flag for water quality has been slashed by a third. In total, 55 beaches were given the coveted environmental award by Keep Britain Tidy, but that number is down considerably on the 79 handed out last year.
However, experts say tough new rules from the EU is to blame for the cut, with the Bathing Waters Directive insisting on stricter requirements for beaches hoping to meet the "excellent" standard.
Topping the Blue Flag charts this year was Kent's Isle of Thanet, which was awarded eight flags, while the Isle of Wight, Bournemouth and Poole in Dorset, and Torbay in Devon each receiving four.
Polzeath in Cornwall, Central Beach in Skegness, Martello Bay at Clacton-on-Sea, and Whitby in North Yorkshire, are also set to fly a Blue Flag.
Keep Britain Tidy insisted that England boasts "some of the best and cleanest beaches in the world", and a further 133 beaches were given a Seaside Award - formerly the Quality Coast Award - for their facilities and cleanliness.
With the Seaside Awards included, the Isle of Wight came out top over the whole of the country, bagging four Blue Flags and a total of 13 Seaside Awards.
Richard McIlwain, operations director at Keep Britain Tidy, told the BBC: "Keep Britain Tidy campaigns to improve the quality of our local environment and we know that communities up and down the country love their beaches, and understand what an asset they are for their towns' economies.
"Holidaymakers and day trippers want to visit clean, safe beaches and the sight of the Blue Flag of Seaside Award flying gives them the reassurance that they will."
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