Bangor Marina and Six Beaches Recognised with Awards
Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful has announced that Bangor Marina and six beaches in Ards and North Down have received awards for excellence in facilities, environmental management, environmental education, accessibility and safety.
Ballywalter, Cloughey, Groomsport and Millisle beaches, managed by Ards and North Down Borough Council, along with Crawfordsburn beach which is operated by Northern Ireland Environment Agency, have received the prestigious Seaside Award in 2020. The Seaside Award is the national standard for beaches across the UK. This programme ensures visitors of a clean, safe, attractive and well-managed beach with the facilities provided being appropriate for the location of the beach.
Helens Bay (operated by Northern Ireland Environment Agency) also received a Green Coast Award, which recognises an agreement between the operator and the local community to protect and promote a natural beach. Green Coast Award beaches can also be found in the Republic of Ireland and in Wales, but due to their more natural state, may not be flying a flag.
Bangor Marina has also been awarded the internationally renowned Blue Flag for the 2020 season. The Blue Flag award is certified by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) and is delivered in 47 participating countries.
In 2020, Blue Flags have been awarded to 4,664 beaches, marinas and boats worldwide. Beach and marina operators receiving a Blue Flag are demonstrating their commitment to protecting the coastal environment, excellent water quality, safety, and providing access for all.
The Blue Flag and Seaside Awards may only be flown if all the criteria are successfully met and maintained throughout the summer season.
Mayor of Ards and North Down, Councillor Trevor Cummings commented:
“Our borough encompasses the southern shore of Belfast Lough, the Irish Sea coast and most of the perimeter of Strangford Lough, giving us 115 miles of stunning coastline. It is fantastic that so many of our beautiful seaside locations have been recognised in this year’s Beach and Marina awards. It is a fitting tribute to the 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.
“This summer we hope many people will be able to visit the area and take the opportunity to exploring our beaches and beauty spots. However, I would make the plea to everyone to do so responsibly and, critically, in line with PHA guidelines. We want our beaches to be safe and will do all we can as a Council to deliver on this but everyone has to take responsibility for their own actions as we continue through the pandemic. As such I would ask that everyone respects social distancing and takes ALL litter home with them.”
Commenting on the awards, Dr. Ian Humphreys, CEO of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, stated:
"We are delighted to see the high standards at so many of our local beaches continuing into 2020. Our fantastic beaches are an important part of the natural wealth that we can all enjoy as a community. This summer, it is important to follow guidance from the public health authorities around social distancing when visiting local beaches. Furthermore, it is up to all of us to ensure that we leave these beauty spots in good condition. I am appealing to everyone to make sure that they leave no trace on our local beaches by putting litter in the bin."
He continued: "The success of our local beaches is a testament to the hard work of many of our key workers within local councils and volunteers within the community who help make the difference in maintaining such high standards at our local beaches."
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented many challenges for the management of beaches this summer. Blue Flags only fly when rigorous standards are met, including water quality, accessibility and safety; including lifeguard cover should it be deemed a requirement following a risk assessment of the beach.
Jamie Miller, Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, Local Environment Quality Manager, said:
“Together with our programme partners, our number one priority is public safety. If we use beaches and marinas, we must take responsibility for our own safety in the water, heeding hazard warning signs, checking tide times and taking weather conditions into consideration before setting out into, or onto the sea. We would therefore like to remind all beach and marina users, especially parents, to be on high alert to all risks of danger and to exercise caution when visiting the coast.”
It is of paramount importance that all beach and marina goers behave responsibly and follow the public health guidance provided by the Northern Ireland Executive and by their local council.
Information and guidance on how to enjoy a safe and healthy visit to sites or outdoor recreation in Northern Ireland can be found at nidirect.gov.uk/articles/covid-19-gradual-reopening-outdoor-recreation-sites.
For information about parks and open spaces in Ards and North Down, visit ardsandnorthdown.gov.uk/about-the-council/COVID19.
Information about all of the award-winning beaches and marinas in Northern Ireland can be found at beachni.com.