David McCann Wed 18 May 2022 updated: Thu 19 May 2022
Ards and North Down, Causeway Coast and Glens, Mid and East Antrim, Mid Ulster, and Newry, Mourne and Down councils all took home environmental awards at a recent presentation celebrating excellent practice in land and waterside management.
The 2022 Beach and Marina Awards saw environmental charity Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful hand out a total of 27 Blue Flag Awards and Seaside Awards at the Ballygally Castle Hotel on 18 May. Awards went to the operational teams behind sites that had achieved the highest international and UK standards in water quality, education, safety and accessibility.
Causeway Coast and Glens emerged as the big winners of the occasion with 12 awards, and increased their number of marinas from one to four. Ards and North Down’s four Seaside Awards represented the most for a single council in the category, while Mid and East Antrim and Newry, Mourne and Down claimed three Blue Flag Awards apiece.
There were also solo Blue Flag Award wins for Mid Ulster District Council and boatfolk, the independent owner of Bangor Marina and 10 other locations across the UK.
Environment Minister Edwin Poots MLA, who delivered a speech at the presentation said, “I am delighted that Northern Ireland again has had such success in the Blue Flag and Seaside Awards. It is inspiring to see so many of our beaches and marinas achieving the exceptionally high standards demanded by these awards. It is a wonderful achievement, especially given the difficulties in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and the many challenges that has presented. I am grateful for the cooperation and collaborative working through the Better Beaches Forum, which is led by my Department and involves KNIB, Northern Ireland Water, councils and stakeholders, in achieving this number of awards.”
The Minister continued, “These awards are excellent news for our holidaymakers and bathers who can confidently enjoy our beaches and marinas, and avail of the award winning facilities that are on offer and I remain committed to ensuring that my Department continues to play a key role in running the annual programme for water quality testing at our world class beaches”
Dr Ian Humphreys, CEO of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful added, “We are privileged to give out 27 Blue Flag and Seaside Awards this year, which signal that Northern Ireland’s beaches and marinas have reached best-in-class standards to match countries across the globe. These landmarks enrich the lives of our communities, and we send profuse thanks and congratulations to the teams who maintain their quality all year round.”
All sites earned their prestigious accolade after successfully convincing a jury panel that their application demonstrated the required quality thresholds. Awards apply from June to the end of September, to coincide with the beach season, and need renewed each year.
Members of the public are invited to enjoy the award-winning amenities at each site, which are designated bathing waters that have the highest water-quality standards and excellent facilities, making them ideal coastal destinations.
The Blue Flag Award is operated by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), a worldwide environmental organisation that also oversees the Eco-Schools, Learning About Forests and Young Reporters for the Environment programmes.
FEE celebrates 35 years of the Blue Flag Award in 2022, and has so far issued 4,831 Blue Flags in 50 countries this year.
The Seaside Award is nationally recognised, rewarding local beaches since 2008.
• Nine Blue Flag Award Beaches winners – Benone Strand, Castlerock Beach, Downhill Strand, Portrush East Strand Beach, Portrush West Strand Beach, Whiterocks [Causeway Coast and Glens]; Cranfield Bay, Murlough Beach, Tyrella Beach [Newry, Mourne and Down]
• Nine Blue Flag Award Marinas winners – Bangor Marina [boatfolk]; Ballycastle Marina, Coleraine Marina, Portrush Harbour and Marina, Rathlin Marina [Causeway Coast and Glens]; Carrickfergus Marina, Glenarm Marina, Portglenone Marina [Mid and East Antrim]; Ballyronan Marina [Mid Ulster]
• Nine Seaside Awards winners – Ballywalter South Beach, Cloughey Beach, Groomsport Beach, Millisle Beach [Ards and North Down]; Ballycastle Beach, Waterfoot Beach [Causeway Coast and Glens]; Ballygally Beach, Brown's Bay Beach, Carnlough Beach [Mid and East Antrim]