The Ards and North Down coastal area has done well by winning awards for excellence in facilities, environmental management, environmental education, accessibility and safety.
Bangor Marina has 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.
The beaches at Ballywalter, Cloughey, Groomsport and Millisle, 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. 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, also operated by Northern Ireland Environment Agency 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.
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.
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."