NORTH Down has again missed out on a coveted Blue Flag awarded to the best beaches in Northern Ireland.
Poor water quality around the ‘Gold Coast’ meant that only Groomsport beach was recognised in the annual Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful awards.
The beach at Groomsport received a Seaside Award, the category below Blue Flag, along with the Ards peninsula beaches at Millisle, Ballywalter and Cloughey.
With neighbouring Newry, Mourne and Down Council securing three prestigious Blue Flags – for Murlough, Tyrella and Cranfield beaches – no beaches in Ards and North Down were judged good enough for the classification.
However, there was some good news for the borough with the award of a Blue Flag for Bangfor Marina, which is managed by an independent operator.
The awards were presented at a ceremony held in Portrush last week.
News of the continuing poor condition of North Down’s beaches comes after the bathing water off Ballyholme was judged the worst in Northern Ireland in a recent survey.
The award-winning locations will now have their flags in place for the duration of the Northern Ireland bathing season, which runs from June 1st to September 15.
Dr Ian Humphreys, of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, said the organisation was ‘extremely pleased’ that Ards and North Down achieved four Seaside Awards and a Blue Flag Award at Bangor Marina.
“Each flag is a symbol that these special places are managed to an excellent standard and an important trust signal to the public that they can expect a high-quality experience when they visit one of these award-winning sites,” he said.
“At a time when budgets are tight and difficult decisions are never far away, we want to thank the council and boatfolk for continuing to invest in our beaches and marinas that are much loved and valued by tourists and people at home alike.”
A spokeswoman for Ards and North Down Council said the organisation submitted applications for four out of its five designated bathing water beaches.
“The council was delighted to receive Seaside Awards for all four beaches at a presentation last week,” he said. “Twenty six awards were presented on the day; five coming to Ards and North Down with Bangor Marina also achieving a prestigious Blue Flag Award.
“Although Ballyholme is a designated bathing water beach, it was classified as having ‘poor’ water quality in 2022, so did not meet the criteria for an award. It remains as a designated bathing water for 2023 and will be tested with the results published weekly throughout the bathing season.”
She went on to say: “Helen’s Bay and Crawfordsburn fall under the management of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency. We are delighted so many seaside locations in the Borough have been recognised in this year’s Blue Flag and UK Seaside Awards.
“It is a fitting tribute to the tireless work of both the council employees and the many groups of volunteers who together strive to keep our coastline clean, tidy and welcoming for visitors.”