Popular resorts failing tougher pollution test

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THE FIRST of the annual plethora of British beach awards was published yesterday, consigning most of the country's best-known resorts to the 'not recommended' category on the grounds of sewage pollution, writes Nicholas Schoon.

Most people know by now that Blackpool is a bit 'iffy'. But the Reader's Digest Good Beach Guide, written by the Marine Conservation Society, also gives no recommendation for beaches like Brighton, Eastbourne, Ramsgate, Skegness and most of Bournemouth. It endorses only 71 out of Britain's 450 designated beaches, 23 fewer than last year's edition of the guide - and this at a time when the water companies are spending about pounds 1bn a year on coastal sewage clean-up schemes, sending their bills soaring.

Yesterday the companies said people 'should not be misled by ventures like The Good Beach Guide into thinking that their contribution (to bills) is not producing results'.

Eighty per cent of the beaches now pass the mandatory, minimum water quality standard for sewage bacteria levels set by a European Union directive. But the guide adopts more stringent standards also taken from the directive.

The Reader's Digest Good Beach Guide; David and Charles; pounds 14.99.