Kent's Blue Flag Beaches

Eleven of Kent's beaches have been given Blue Flag awards by Keep Britain Tidy, recognising bathing water quality, litter free sands and top notch facilities.

Thanet, with nine, has the most Blue Flag Beaches of any local authority area in England. Botany Bay at Broadstairs, Joss Bay and Westbrook Bay maintained their flags from last year, while Margate Main Sands, Minnis Bay, Ramsgate Main Sands, St Mildred's Bay, Stone Bay and West Bay were new for 2012, having been given a Quality Coast Award last year.

Elsewhere in Kent, Herne Bay and Tankerton also made it on to the list this year.

Across the country 79 beaches were recognised with Blue Flags, which is nine more than in 2011.

This means that England is ranked in the world's top 10 countries for having the most Blue Flag beaches out of the 46 countries taking part in the scheme.

In addition, 99 beaches have received Keep Britain Tidy's Quality Coast Awards (QCA) - nine fewer than in 2011.

Keep Britain Tidy said the tougher water quality standard being introduced in 2013 under the new EU Bathing Water Directive was estimated to be twice as stringent as the current Blue Flag water quality standards. It is estimating that around 30% of current Blue Flag beaches might not reach the necessary standard.

Also, in England, Blue Flag beaches will next year need to provide warnings to beach users when nearby combined sewer overflows discharge, if that discharge could temporarily affect the bathing water quality.

Environment Agency head of bathing waters Christine Tuckett said: "Bathing water quality is at an all-time high but there is more work to do to drive further improvements. We are working hard with water companies, local authorities and farmers to identify and tackle sources of pollution at all bathing sites."