Sandown has won a prestigious Blue Flag beach award, in time for the lifting of the Covid-19 lockdown and a stay-at-home summer.

It is the first to be won by an Isle of Wight beach in years and has been handed over by environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy, which has also awarded four Island locations 2021 Seaside Awards.

Sandown mayor Gary Young called the Blue Flag a 'tremendous achievement.'

Sandown used be a regular winner of the accolade but, as the price of meeting the criteria went up, the number of Isle of Wight beaches flying them went down, due to cost cutting by the Isle of Wight Council.

This year, Sandown Parish Council applied for one directly - and won!

Isle of Wight County Press: Sandown is the proud holder of a Blue Flag award.

Sandown beach, towards Culver Cliff and (below) Sandown mayor Gary Young proudly displaying the Blue Flag award.

Isle of Wight County Press:

Gary Young said: "We are possibly the first town or parish council on the Island ever to be recognised this way.

"All involved deserve a big thank you and this status contributes to a safe summer, for residents and visitors to Sandown."

Sandown's is one of 76 Blue Flag beaches in England this year and the country now has more than Brazil, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Israel, Malta, Mexico, or South Africa.

Blue Flag awards recognise safety, facilities, cleanliness and environmental considerations and are often sought out by people visiting beaches when they are on holiday.

Meanwhile, Seaside Awards have been handed to four Isle of Wight beaches.

Isle of Wight County Press: Shanklin Mayor Steve Knight (right) accepting the town's Seaside Award for 2021.

Shanklin Mayor Steve Knight (right) is 'delighted' by the town's Seaside Award.

Shanklin, Sandown, Seagrove and Springvale will all be flying Seaside Awards, applied for by their town and parish councils.

Shanklin Mayor Steve Knight said: "We are delighted to secure this national award for a further year, as it's been a very challenging year for everyone.

"We hope it helps attract locals and holidaymakers to Shanklin and the Bay, for a safe and sunny summer break."

Isle of Wight County Press:

St Helens Parish Council chairman John Coleman and the Seaside Award, won by Nettlestone and Seaview Parish Council.

Earlier this month, an election pledge was made by the Conservative party, County Hall's ruling group before the election on May 6.

A host of promises were made, including to "work with relevant town and parish councils to agree appropriate levels of beach cleaning and lifeguard provision (where needed), particularly to ensure that more Blue Flags and Seaside Awards can be secured."

But opposition party members said it was too little, too late.

In 2019, when councillors met to consider the importance of beach awards, the County Press asked if the Island would ever see a prestigious Blue Flag again.

In 2020, ten Isle of Wight beaches won Quality Awards, while the nearest Blue Flag beaches were on the Dorset, Hampshire and Sussex coasts but in 2013, four Blue Flags were awarded to Isle of Wight beaches, as well as 13 Seaside Awards - collectively giving us the highest number of beach awards in the country.

"Incredible work" - Keep Britain Tidy’s Chief Executive Allison Ogden-Newton OBE

Keep Britain Tidy’s Chief Executive Allison Ogden-Newton OBE said: "2021, more than ever, we are going to be relying on our country’s beautiful beaches to escape for a much-needed break after all the stresses and strains of the past year.

"Last year, due to the pandemic, we did not have the opportunity to celebrate all the great award-winning beaches around the coast.

"This year, we are delighted to have even more winners than we did in 2019, thanks to the incredible work of the teams around the country that make our beaches clean and safe for us all to enjoy."