ONE of South Wales’ most beautiful beaches will be unable to win back its prestigious Blue Flag award next year because of the wet summer weather.
Southerndown beach, on the Vale of Glamorgan’s heritage coast, failed to hit the European water quality standards needed to qualify for the world-recognised accolade.
It is one of several of Wales’ most famous beaches, including Broadhaven in Pembrokeshire and Pendine Sands in Carmarthenshire, that will be unable to apply for the awards next year.
Torrential summer rain that washed pollutants off farm fields into the sea was blamed for the fall in the number of beaches that hit the relevant EC guideline standard for water quality.
A spokesman for Keep Wales Tidy said the resulting loss of the award would be a blow to the tourist industry and to local authorities which had spent significant sums to help their resorts qualify.
He said: “It is very sad. There are some very familiar names that will be missing from that list next year.
“We have had some of the worst summer weather we have ever had and that’s had an impact on water quality.
“You must feel sorry for local authorities who have invested a lot of money in their beaches to bring them up to Blue Flag standard.”
The Blue Flag awards are the top award for seaside resorts and are awarded to 3,200 beaches in 37 countries across the world.
In South Wales, they are currently held only by Whitmore Bay in Barry and Rest Bay and Trecco Bay in Porthcawl.
The Environment Agency Wales promised to work with Welsh Water and farmers to tackle the problem in future but warned wet summers were here to stay.
Chris Mills, director of the Agency, said: “We have to do more to counter the impact of run-off on our beaches created by heavy rain.
“Long-term projections linked to climate change suggest we can expect more wet summers in future.”
Despite the news, there was a rise in the number of beaches hitting the lower EC mandatory award for water quality across Wales.
Announcing the results, Environment Minister Jane Davidson said: “There has been a slight drop in the number of bathing waters meeting the guideline standard – 62 this year compared to 69 in 2007.
“But these results must be seen in the context of the overall improvement made during the particularly heavy rainfall that we experienced in four out of the five months when testing took place.”
david.james@mediawales.co.uk