Jaybe Dowle: Flying the flag for a clean and safe seaside

TODAY, if the sun has finally decided to come out, we're off to Cleethorpes.

Apologies for straying across the border to Lincolnshire, but Cleethorpes is one of our favourite day trip destinations. It's not far, there is crazy golf and the beach is clean. Indeed, it has just been awarded a Blue Flag Award by the Keep Britain Tidy group, so we know it must be okay. Or do we?

Well, there are Blue Flags, there are the Marine Conservation Society's Good Beach Guide awards and now, we hear, in 2015, the European Union will bring in tough new standards which could see up to 83 per cent of Britain's beaches failing stringent tests on cleanliness and water quality.

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Some of Yorkshire's seaside favourites, including Withernsea, Robin Hood's Bay and Bridlington South have all been warned by the Marine Conservation Society to clean up their acts in preparation.

I'm all for encouraging local councils and the Environment Agency to invest time and effort into making our beaches among the best in Europe. We have so much to offer, especially in our region, and it is about time the rest of the world realised it. Where in the world can beat Scarborough's North Bay on a sunny afternoon, or a walk from Whitby to Sandsend at low tide?

But with at least three standards operating at the same time, won't confusion reign? Surely it would be more beneficial if all the agencies concerned could concentrate their efforts on striving to meet the requirements of one overall benchmark.

Keep Britain Tidy and the Marine Conservation Society have undoubtedly done excellent work in raising awareness of issues such as pollution and the thoughtless littering of our beautiful coastline. But you can't help but be cynical. Even my first-year public relations students know that one of the best ways of getting publicity for an organisation is to hold an awards scheme. If these organisations really care about the quality of our seawater, they won't have any objection to pulling together, will they?

Far be it from me to encourage the interference of Europe in our national affairs, but I am all for our beaches being compared directly to their more exotic Mediterranean counterparts, because it looks like we're going to be doing a lot more of this holidaying at home.

Economic uncertainty, the unfavourable euro and the possibility of the volcanic ash cloud stranding us in some foreign airport hell-hole are three reasons the great British holiday is back in vogue.

This is great news for seaside towns, and for all the cafs, hotels and guest houses which have struggled to survive as holidaymakers bolted for the Continent on cheap flights.

The effects of this sea-change in holidaying habits are already apparent. My parents had to ring at least 10 hotels in Blackpool last week before they found one with vacancies for the Bank Holiday weekend.

Their holiday activities rarely extend as far as getting sand between their toes; they prefer a gentle stroll along the prom and an evening in the Tower Ballroom. But none of us will ever forget the Bank Holiday Monday a couple of years ago, when my son Jack had an unfortunate experience just below the South Pier.

Chasing after a football, he slipped and landed face-down and full-length in a pool of what can only be described as effluent. Disgusting black slime covered him from head to foot. Of course, there were no public toilets nearby in which to hose him down, so we had to strip him off, bundle him in a towel and do our best with wet-wipes. The poor

child was mortified.

I was terrified that he had contracted some horrific water-borne disease. And despite liberal squirtings of Chanel No. 5, the car stank for weeks.

We can laugh about it now, but this is the not the sort of seaside image Visit Britain wants to flag up on its posters.

So, it is good news that the Environment Agency has recently announced a 4bin investment to improve water quality and tackle pollution at more than 160 bathing spots across England and Wales over the next five years, in readiness for the new EU regulations.

But we all have a role to play in making our beaches better. My

dog-owning friends are regularly incandescent that they are banned from enjoying certain beaches with their pets at certain times

of the year. But as always, it is a case of the inconsiderate minority spoiling it for the responsible majority.

The message is simple: clean up after yourself. And the same goes

for those lazy individuals who toss cigarette ends into the sand, leave empty cans to float in the sea, and can't be bothered to take anything – including used nappies – to a bin.

Leave the Environment Agency to tackle the sewage pipes, but don't leave anything behind when you go home. It's simple, really, enjoying the pleasures of sea, sand and er, sun. Ah, yes, all we need now is the weather. And that is one thing that even the EU can't control.