THREE beaches in the North West have failed to meet minimum standards on water quality, a report has revealed.
A record number of beaches and bathing spots in England and Wales reached the highest European standards for water quality in 2010.
But 10 of the 493 beaches and bathing spots monitored across the country failed to meet minimum standards.
These included three in the North West - Heysham Half Moon Bay and St Annes, in Lancashire, and Walney Sandy Gap in Cumbria.
Some 98% of beaches and inland swimming areas met the mandatory minimum European Commission standards for water quality - down 0.6% on last year's levels, data published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) showed.
The good results in 2009 came after two years in which heavy rain and flooding caused water quality to drop as pollutants were washed into the seas.
Tougher standards come into force from 2015, but already more than 80% of beaches in England and Wales are clean enough to meet the new measures, the Environment Agency said.