One of Fife’s most popular beaches has lost its coveted Blue Flag.
The international stamp of approval was withdrawn from Leven Beach after its water quality failed to meet top European standards.
It was only announced in May that the flag was being flown for the third year in a row at the Kingdom bay, a favourite with visitors to the area.
Although the bathing water quality has improved again and the beach is continuing to fly its Seaside Award flag, more than two sample failures mean the Blue Flag must be taken down for the rest of the summer.
Samples taken on June 6 and 12 and July 10 had unacceptable levels of bacteria, possibly caused by heavy downpours.
Derek Robertson, chief executive of Keep Scotland Beautiful, which awards Blue Flags in Scotland, said: ”The beach passed 32 strict criteria this year to obtain the Blue Flag, but unfortunately the Blue Flag only recognises beaches across the world with the top water quality.
”While we are all bitterly disappointed the Blue Flag has had to be withdrawn, we are pleased Leven will continue to be actively managed and that Seaside Award standards will be maintained, allowing visitors to access up-to-date information about the water quality.
”We would urge people to keep visiting the beach and to check the most recent water quality results on the information boards or online at sepa.org.uk.”
Confirmation of the cause of the water quality breach is awaited from SEPA, which conducts the tests.
Chairman of Fife Council’s Levenmouth area committee, Tom Adams, said: ”The water quality is back to high standard now, but the strict criteria for the Blue Flag award means we cannot fly the Blue Flag for the rest of the season.
”Leven beach will still have lifeguard cover for the remainder of the season and it will be maintained to the standard visitors and residents have come to expect. We hope to receive a Blue Flag for Leven Beach next year.”
SNP councillor for the Leven, Kennoway and Largo ward Alistair Hunter called for an urgent answer as to why bacteria levels in the water had risen.
He said: ”We really need to get to the bottom of why the water quality has changed so much.
”We have a fantastic resource here and the last couple of years the beach has been busier than ever.
”The community is really proud of the Blue Flag it’s the standard-bearer of good quality.
”I hope its loss won’t have a detrimental impact for businesses and the reputation of the town.”
Local Labour councillor Charles Haffey said: ”I’m very, very sad this has happened.
”I hope we are in a position to regain the Blue Flag as soon as possible.
”I still believe Fife has safe, clean beaches and I certainly hope this won’t deter people from coming to Leven for a holiday.”
Blue Flags are awarded to beaches which meet European standards on water quality, environmental education, information and management, safety and services.
Seaside Award flags are awarded for meeting mandatory EU standards.