Our beaches are our greatest natural asset, though we have many others.
It’s the sand, refreshed each tide, which draws visitors.
For families, a day on the beach under a warm sun is the holiday dream. It’s cheap, safe and the source of indelible memories.
We live within a few minutes of the sea, but many of our visitors will only ever see it at holiday time.
That is why Torbay’s participation in the Blue Flag scheme is so important – it shows we want our beaches to reach the highest international standards.
Torbay has three gold standard Blue Flag beaches and ten Seaside Awards from Maidencombe in the north to St Mary’s Bay near Brixham in the south, and we have aspirations to increase our number of Blue Flag beaches this year.
The most important criterion is water quality, the one thing you can’t judge for yourself - unless you spot a raw sewage pipe discharging into the sea. This criterion is very strict – water samples have to be taken at least once month during the holiday season - not less than five times.
An independent person, officially authorised and trained for the task, must collect the samples and an independent laboratory must analyse the samples.
The laboratory must be nationally or internationally accredited for microbiological and physical-chemical analysis. These results can’t be fixed.
By participating in the Blue Flag scheme, Torbay is being honest and open about local bathing water quality and it’s years since we came up short.
That’s because we have worked closely with the water authority to relentlessly improve our storm water drains and other sources of pollution.
But being a Blue Flag beach is not just about water quality. There are 33 criteria in all, covering everything from litter bins to disabled access - a ramp for wheelchairs on Paignton beach, for example - and simple things like free drinking water.
The Blue Flags champion sustainable tourism.
In terms of carbon footprint, a day on the beach must be one of the least consuming.
But we can improve that further with good public transport. It’s also about educating our beachgoers to not leave litter - 'leave only footprints' is a great slogan - and to care about the marine life which we share the water with.
Torbay has internationally important eel grass beds off many of our beaches, nurseries to a myriad of species.
Blue Flag accreditation means you are not allowed to drive on beaches, or camp, or let dogs run around during peak season.
This is about public safety, ensuring that families can just relax and feel safe without having to worry about competing recreations.
If you sit on one of our accredited beaches you will notice yellow buoys floating off-shore – These are five-knot marker buoys deterring jet skis and powerboats from using the same space where people are swimming.
Torbay Council employs seasonal staff to help manage our beaches. We have lifeguards, safety equipment and first aid posts.
If we have some good weather during the school summer holidays our beaches could be as busy as they were during the 1970s.
That is when the infrastructure which the Blue Flag scheme requires comes into its own.
Never has Torbay been prouder to fly its Blue Flags and send a clear message to visitors – come on in, the water’s lovely.
Torquay United are rivalling the script writer of Line of Duty for nail biting endings this season.
I think it’s 13 games where the Gulls have scored in extra time, or 'Gary time' as it has become named after manager Gary Johnson.
Such is their reputation for winning points after 90 minutes that supporters of other National League teams are complaining that referees only add time on when Torquay need to score a goal.
We haven’t won the league yet, but the signs are good for automatic promotion back into the Football League, so come on you yellows!
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