It has been several years since any Island beach had Blue Flag status, and the difficulty of obtaining the globally recognised benchmark was discussed by councillors at a scrutiny committee meeting on Thursday (4).

The Blue Flag scheme is a globally recognised label for beaches and marinas, and the Green Flag award scheme is an international benchmark for well managed parks and green spaces.

Cllr John Hobart, the cabinet member for environment and heritage, said awards could be too expensive to attain, but the Island continues to offer a high standard of parks and beaches.

The discussions took place during a meeting of the Policy and Scrutiny Committee for Neighbourhoods and Regeneration which considered the Environmental Action Plan.

Cllr Wayne Whittle, of Ryde North East, called the guidelines for achieving the Blue Flag status too strict.

The criteria includes restricting access to the beach for dogs, requiring recycling facilities for at least three different materials, and having a high lifeguard presence.

Cllr Whittle said:

“One of the main issues was that the criteria was getting harder, that is the bar was being set higher every year and it was becoming more costly.”
He suggested the possibility of the Island setting up their own beach awards but said Ryde could never apply for a Blue Flag again.
Cllr Chris Quirk, of Shanklin South, said investing to win the awards would be beneficial in the long run, saying Shanklin beach is “a cash cow, but cash cows still need to be fed”.
He said:
“Things like the Blue Flag actually give the difference as to why you should come to this beach rather than another beach and help the success of the tourist industry.”
Councillors were more positive about the possibility of reintroducing Green Flag status across the Island.
Cllr Michael Lilley, of Ryde East, said he had a visit from a historic heritage panel who suggested Green Flag status could help in a pitch for Heritage Zone status.
He said there needed to be a discussion with parish and town councils about the importance of the awards and how they can help funding, specifically mentioning Appley Park in his own ward.
It was decided that a report should be prepared for the committee’s next meeting on September 5.
By David Anderson, Local Democracy Reporter