Guide East Devon Beaches

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8. Blue Flag and Seaside Awards - FAQs

Do the Blue Flag and Seaside Awards mean that it is safe to swim?

The awards don’t mean that it’s always safe to swim.

EDDC lowers the award flag during pollution incidents and pollution risk forecasts, there will be signs warning against bathing, and where there are lifeguards working, red flags will also be displayed.

At EDDC's beaches there are information boards with QR codes which direct beach users to the Surfers Against Sewage Safer Seas and Rivers Service, SWW’s Water fit interactive map, and the Environment Agency's Swimfo site, to help them make an informed decision about whether to enter the water.

Electronic signs at each beach display the Environment Agency's daily pollution risk forecast. During the bathing season, EDDC display the water quality results at every beach when they are provided by the Environment Agency, generally around 7 days after samples are taken.

How is East Devon District Council (EDDC) holding South West Water (SWW) to account about bathing water quality?

The Council passed a unanimous vote of no confidence in SWW on 22 February 2024. EDDC officers continue to work with the Environment Agency to do everything that they can to hold SWW to account.

Why did East Devon apply for these awards, despite concerns about bathing water quality?

The Blue Flag is not just about water quality. Other standards such as waste and recycling, safety, environmental education, disability access and more are judged. The awards promote tourism, and are valuable to the local economy, supporting local businesses.

Having Blue Flags also puts additional pressure on SWW to improve bathing water quality at the beaches.

Who classifies bathing water quality?

Bathing water classification is determined nationally by the Environment Agency, based on an average of the samples taken in the previous season between 15 May and 30 September. The Blue Flag only applies during this season. More information on how Bathing Waters are classified can be found on the Environment Agency's website.

Most sewage spills took place in the winter in 2023, meaning that the classification was not affected.

Why does the bathing season only go from 15 May - 30 September?

This was a decision taken by the UK Government in 2013.

Why did some beaches not get awards?

Budleigh Salterton received the Seaside Award, but not the Blue Flag because it couldn’t meet the environmental education criteria. EDDC didn’t apply for the awards for Jacobs Ladder beach because it doesn’t meet all the criteria. EDDC hopes to apply for awards for both beaches in 2025 though.
The other two bathing waters in the district are Ladram Bay and Sandy Bay. These beaches are not owned by EDDC, so it would be up to the owners to apply.

Other beaches in the district such as Branscombe are also not owned by EDDC, but they are also not designated bathing waters, so they would not be eligible for the awards anyway.

Did the judges visit the award-winning beaches?

The awards were given based on the application, which included information on what spills there had been in the previous year and how EDDC responded to them. Judges from Keep Britain Tidy will visit each of the beaches during the peak summer season. The council is not told the dates that inspections take place until afterwards.

Are Blue Flag beaches dog-friendly?

The Blue Flag only applies to the seasonal dog ban areas of each beach, since it is a criteria that dogs are excluded. There are dogs allowed areas at every beach outside of the award area.

On beaches where dogs are allowed, we recommend that you use the Surfers Against Sewage Safer Seas and Rivers Service and SWW’s Water fit interactive map to make an informed decision about whether your dog should enter the water.

How can I find out more about this issue?

Contact us on streetsceneops@eastdevon.gov.uk and our beach safety officer will be very happy to discuss things with you.