ALL Southend’s beaches have won top awards for cleanliness – but still fail to meet the strict standards needed for Blue Flag status.

Keep Britain Tidy has awarded all seven beaches around Southend Seaside Awards, which recognise quality, management, cleanliness and safety.

But Southend Council failed to enter any of the beaches for the charity’s internationally-recognised Blue Flag status as it admits water is not yet clean enough.

Lynn Jones, the council’s resort services manager, said: “We did not apply for Blue Flags in 2014, but are very pleased to have picked up seven seaside awards which reflect the quality, management, cleanliness and safety of our beaches.

“To win a Seaside Award all beaches must meet the required European Union standards, which ours have for a number of years and continue to do so.

“However, to achieve a Blue Flag, water quality has to be considered ‘excellent’ for around 90 per cent of the time over four years. This is under the much tougher revised bathing water directive.”

The last three of the town’s beaches to have Blue Flag status, East Beach and Shoebury Common in Shoebury and Three Shells in Southend, lost the award last year.

The Environment Agency warned Bell Wharf Beach in Leigh and Chalkwell Beach could miss new EU standards coming into force next year.

The council believes all beaches are close to achieving Blue Flag water quality standards after a joint project by the authority, the Environment Agency and Anglian Water last year, in which 133 misconnected drains spewing raw sewage into the estuary were identified.

But the previous poor record over four years counts against the town.

Ms Jones said: “Our water quality has not changed, but the standard required to get a Blue Flag has significantly risen. We knew that we would not meet that standard this year so only applied for the Seaside Awards.”

“All of our bathing waters reach the ‘mandatory’ level and some are moving towards the excellent category.”