Beaches at Blackpool, Morecambe, Southend and Scarborough are among the 50 which fail to meet minimum EU standards.
And fewer than half Britain's 472 beaches meet the guidelines needed to qualify for the EU's Blue Flag sign of quality.
Britain comes seventh in the league for compliance with the mandatory standards. Only Belgium has fewer beaches meeting the higher Blue Flag criteria.
Britain's beaches got no better in 1996, according to the Quality of Bathing Water Report. From 1992 to 1995 the proportion meeting the mandatory standards rose from 77.1 per cent to 89 per cent, but last year it was only 89.4 per cent.Reuse content