FAMILIES have reacted with joy as four beaches in Southend gained blue flag status and were hailed among the best in the country.

The awards, made by Keep Britain Tidy, are only given to beaches which are clean and safe with great facilities.

East Beach, Shoebury Common and Thorpe Bay have all retained their blue flag status, with Three Shells beach now added.

This means, of the 12 beaches in the East of England with blue flag status, a third can be found along Southend’s coastline.

Chalkwell and Jubilee Beach picked up the 2019 Seaside Award, recognising beaches which are well-managed and maintained.

Carlie Crease and her partner Tom Cook, from Basildon, decided to make the most of the good weather yesterday and take their children Ronnie and Charlie to Three Shells Beach.

Ms Crease said: “Obviously, coming from Basildon, this is our local beach.

“As a parent, it’s nice to know that the kids are playing in clean water.

“It’s reassuring.

“We come to Southend quite a lot so I’m just really pleased to know that the kids will be safe.”

While the Basildon family praised Southend as a go-to destination in the summer, residents in the area were over the moon with the news.

Sarah James, 55, said: “It really is fantastic news. Having the seafront is one of the best things about Southend, having that as an option all summer is amazing. The kids love it, I love it, my grandparents love it when they come to visit.

“There is something special about going to the beach in the summer, and the quality of Southend’s beaches make that extra special.”

Southend Council welcomed the news with Scott Dolling, director for culture tourism and property, stating :“Residents and visitors alike will know that they are among the best in the country.”

Despite the good news, swimmers were warned not top use Bell Wharf beach in Leigh due to dangerous levels of bacteria being found.