A RAMPED up cleaning regime of Ards and North Down beaches is being considered after it was claimed that people couldn’t walk on certain areas ‘without swallowing flies’.

Several years ago Ards and North Down Council stopped the mechanical cleaning of beaches when new regulations were brought in by the Department of Agriculture, Environment, Agriculture and Rural Affairs (DAERA).

Speaking at a recent meeting of the council’s Environment Committee, councillor Robert Adair asked that council officers explore how beaches could be cleaned and maintained on a proactive basis to ensure they continued to be clean, safe and well-managed coastal environments.

He said Ards and North Down had the largest coastline of any council area in Northern Ireland and it included many award winning beaches, including some that are amenity beaches, leased and maintained by the council.

Beaches in the borough are visited on a daily basis by local residents and, particularly in the summer, by tourists from all over Northern Ireland and further afield, he said.

“It is a great way for families to come and enjoy a day out without spending too much money. They are a great resource right on our doorstep”.

Up until 2021 the beaches were well maintained by the council, he said, but since then new DAERA regulations have had an adverse effect on the maintenance of beaches. Under the new regulations the council have to clean the equipment down before moving from one beach to another.

“As a result of that the council has suspended any mechanical beach cleaning they did and are now only doing quite minimal litter picking,” Mr Adair said. 

“In the summertime you can’t open your mouth without swallowing flies if you walk from the Princess Anne Road to the back of the old Middleton seafood factory in Portavogie,” he said, adding there were similar areas in Ballywalter and Millisle. 

Referring to the Causeway Coast and Glens Council area, which also has a long coastline, Mr Adair said the council had received funding to install a beach cleaning station on one of their beaches.

“The do nothing approach isn’t working,” continued Mr Adair. “It is an environmental problem which has a detrimental affect on those using our beaches.

“It is unacceptable in this day and age that people cannot walk an area of a beach without swallowing flies”.

Councillor David Kerr said beaches play a very important part in the landscape of the Ards peninsula.

“Council has a part to play in keeping our wonderful beaches safe, clean and looking well for all to enjoy and not leave them abandoned and neglected looking,” he continued.

Hopefully we can move forward and get these issues addressed and have a regular cleaning cycle in place”.

Each committee decision must be ratified by the full council.