A FORMER councillor has urged Castle Point Council to invest in the seafront’s beach facilities before setting their sights on earning a Blue Flag status.

Blue Flags are issued by an international body, the Blue Flag programme, which recognises beaches that have very high standards of safety, educational and eco-friendly criteria. There are more than 30 criteria a beach must meet in order to earn the flag.

But Colin Letchford, chairman of the charity group Friends of Concord Beach, and former Independent councillor who represented Canvey East, said the goal is pointless now as the beaches’ conditions fail to meet the criteria.

He said: “I was pleased that Rebecca Harris MP supports Castle Point Council’s recognition of the improvement of the beaches. However, the hope of getting Blue Flag status is a non-starter.

“There are very strict conditions that the Blue Flag programme applies. It’s not just about how clean your water quality is, it’s about having the right provisions for visitors who come to the beach.

“Both Concord Beach and Thorney Bay have already failed to meet four of the Blue Flag programme’s criteria. They don’t have a full lifeguard cover, a first aid station, a restroom with toilets including a disabled facility, and a supply of drinking water available.”

Instead, Mr Letchford recommends the council apply for the Keep Britain Tidy’s Seaside Awards, which is a more achievable goal.

He said: “Seaside Award beaches can fly a flag that is symbol of quality which ensures visitors are guaranteed to find a clean, safe, attractive and well-managed beach.

“At the moment we need to spend some money to tidy up Concord Beach because lots of visitors smoke, and leave behind cigarette butts. We need to sift through the sand to get them out.

“Since the Friends of Concord Beach was founded a couple of years ago, our volunteers have been working hard to improve the beach. We are doing what we can to make it an attractive place for people. We have installed a shower, we bought a Waterwheels wheelchair for disabled children, and we’ve installed 230 benches along seafront.”