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Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful have announced 25 of the best beaches and marinas at their annual beach and marina awards. The event also highlighted the work of the EU SWIM project on bathing water quality monitoring

Beach and Marina Operators received 13 national and 12 international awards for excellence in facilities, environmental management, environmental education, accessibility and water quality.

The internationally renowned Blue Flag will be flown at 8 of Northern Ireland’s beaches and 4 marinas during the 2019 season. The Blue Flag award is certified by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) and has 45 participating countries. In 2019 Blue Flags have been awarded to 4,560 beaches, marinas and boats worldwide. Beach and marina operators receiving a Blue Flag are demonstrating their commitment to protecting the coastal environment, excellent water quality, safety, and providing access for all. Fun educational activities are also available at these sites.

The Seaside Award is the national standard for beaches across the UK. This programme ensures visitors of a clean, safe, attractive and well-managed beach with the facilities provided being appropriate for the location of the beach. Twelve beaches have received the Seaside Award in 2019 and they can be identified by the Seaside Award Flag or Plaque.

The Blue Flag and Seaside Awards may only be flown if all the criteria are successfully met and maintained throughout the summer season.

One of Northern Ireland’s beaches, Helens Bay, received the Green Coast Award, which recognises an agreement between the operator and the local community to protect and promote a natural beach environment rather than developing visitor infrastructure. Green Coast Award beaches can also be found in the Republic of Ireland and in Wales, but due to their more natural state, may not be flying a flag.

Northern Ireland’s coastline has some iconic sights, and many of our award winning beaches include or are next to Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty with specially protected habitats and species forming a large part of the experience visitors enjoy. The aim of these award programmes is to improve the connection between people and their surroundings by encouraging them to spend more time in and learn more about their coastal environment. Most award winning beaches and marinas provide information points to showcase the best of Northern Ireland’s wildlife and provide visitors with information on how they can enjoy these natural wonders without disturbing or damaging them.

Information on all the award winning beaches and marinas can be found at www.beachni.com or by picking up an award winning beaches and marinas leaflet from your nearest Tourist Information Centre.

The awards were presented on 30th May 2019, in time for the bathing season, which runs from 1st June until the 15th September each year. The awards event also provided an update on the work of the EU SWIM Project on bathing water quality monitoring.

Ian Humphreys, Chief Executive of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, said “For your health, for good old fashioned ‘screen free’ fun and for helping us realise the wonder of our natural environment, it is hard to beat a visit to our coast or lough shores. Behind every enjoyable experience is a small team of committed beach and marina operators who toil year round to keep these places in pristine condition. These awards are one way of recognising their ongoing dedication and of course advertising the best very places to take a holiday.”

Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful is also one of the partners of the EU SWIM Project (System for Bathing Water Quality Monitoring). It is a cross-border research project funded by the INTERREG VA Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body, which is in the final stages of developing a system for live bathing water monitoring. The EU SWIM Project combines the expertise of lead partner University College Dublin and partners, Agri-Food Bioscience Institute and Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful. The development of a bathing water quality prediction model uses the data collected by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, (DAERA) Marine and Fisheries Division and directly links into software to support the collection of data and delivery of information to the public.

Ian Humphreys added:

“The addition of the EU SWIM bathing water quality app will complement the Beach and Marina awards by ensuring the public are informed of the water quality status at the nine beaches being monitored across Northern Ireland and the Republic. The app that is being developed will provide peace of mind to bathers in the future that the water is of sufficient quality before they visit the beach. The app will be refined during the 2019 season. ”

DAERA currently monitors 26 identified bathing water sites across Northern Ireland on a weekly basis during the bathing season and is also contributing to the EU SWIM Project.

David Small Deputy Secretary (Environment, Marine and Fisheries Group) commented:

“I am delighted that so many of Northern Ireland’s beaches have received the coveted Blue Flag, Seaside and Green Coast Awards. These awards and the recognition that our first-class marinas have received, are testament to the hard work and dedication of those who manage our beaches and marinas. These outstanding awards let people around the world know that Northern Ireland is not only open for business but that our beaches, marinas and coastline are great destinations; clean, healthy and safe to enjoy, and supporting our vision of a living, working, active landscape valued by everyone.”

Notes to editors

For reference:

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council

Blue Flag

1. Cranfield West Beach

2. Murlough Beach

3. Tyrella Beach

Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council

Blue Flag

4. Benone Beach

5. Downhill Beach

6. West Strand

7. Whiterocks Beach

8. Ballycastle Marina

Seaside Award

9. Ballycastle Beach

10. Castlerock Beach

11. Portrush East Strand

12. Waterfoot Beach

Ards and North Down Borough Council

Seaside Award

13. Ballywalter Beach

14. Groomsport Beach

15. Millisle Beach

16. Cloughey Beach

Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA)

Seaside Award

17. Crawfordsburn Beach

Green Coast Award

18. Helen’s Bay Beach

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council

Blue Flag

19. Carrickfergus Marina

Seaside Award

20. Ballygally Beach

21. Brown’s Bay

22. Carnlough Beach

Mid Ulster District Council

Blue Flag

23. Ballyronan Marina

National Trust

Blue Flag

24. Portstewart Strand

Quay Marinas Limited

Blue Flag

25. Bangor Marina

Seaside Award – 12

Blue Flag – 8 beaches 4 Marinas

Green Coast - 1