THE region’s beaches have received one of their highest ever ratings in a national guide to bathing water standards.

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has launched its annual Good Beach Guide online today (Tuesday, April 15) which showed water quality off the region’s coast last summer was one of the best ever.

The marine charity has attributed this result partly to last year being the driest summer since 2003.

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Of the 65 beaches tested for water quality in the North-East and Yorkshire, 82 per cent received the highest rating after being found to have “excellent” water quality - up from 48 per last year. It has only achieved this rating once before in the guide’s 27 year history.

In the 2013 guide, seven North-East beaches failed mandatory bathing water standards.

This year, the region was one of just four in the Britain Isles where no beaches failed.

The news may go some way to alleviating fears that some of the area’s beaches may fall foul of tough new European directives which come into force next year.

Under the new EU rules, beaches which don’t meet the “sufficient” standard at the end of 2015 will have to display signs warning against bathing in the sea. The standard will be twice as stringent as the current minimum standard.

Seaham in County Durham, Seaton Carew North on Teesside and Staithes and Scarborough’s South Bay in North Yorkshire were among 45 singled out along the English coastline by the Environment Agency as being at risk of not making the new directives.

Much of the problem in Staithes has been the geography of the harbour, as a stream empties into it, carrying with it bacteria from animals and farmland.

The MCS assessment of the four beaches discovered they had achieved mandatory, minimum water quality standards, apart from Scarborough which achieved the top recommended status for excellent water quality.

The conservation society said one of the UK’s driest summers in recent memory had resulted in more bathing beaches in the UK than ever being recommended for excellent water quality, with 73 per cent making the grade.

MCS Coastal Pollution Officer, Rachel Wyatt, said she hoped the latest figures would boost to UK tourism after several previously wet summers led to a drop in bathing water quality from pollution running into the sea from rural and urban areas and overloaded sewers.

She said: “Most people don’t realise what a big impact the weather can have on bathing water quality, but this has really been highlighted in the last few years.”