A Norfolk beach known for its pollution and water quality issues has been handed a 'Brown Flag Award'.

Robbie Lane from Holiday Park Guru gave the flag to the 13 dirtiest beaches in England including Heacham, near Hunstanton.

Brown flags are a twist on the blue flags used to recognise clean and sustainable waters and were gifted to the beaches ranked the lowest by the Environment Agency.

The Environment Agency currently rates the water at Heacham as 'poor' and advises people not to bathe in the waters.

Mr Lane, a keen sea-swimmer himself, said: "We’re hoping to make a real splash in the papers with the launch of England’s first-ever 'Brown Flag Awards'.

"Commiserations to our 13 winners this year – you really are top of the plops.

"We just hope they’ll take up our offer of a free brown flag, although I’m afraid we can’t quite afford to provide a flagpole as well.”

A spokeswoman for the Environment Agency said they had been working on improving the water quality at Heacham "for several years" but that a clear cause had not been found.

"We work with the council, Anglian Water and other partners to identify and reduce pollution sources which is complex as there is no one clear source at Heacham," she explained.

“In addition to this ongoing work, our key priorities this year will be to continue visits in the area and investigate any potential sources of pollution.

"We hope to secure funding to conduct further research into the impact of environmental conditions on Heacham water quality.”

But a spokeswoman for Anglian Water denied polluted sewage was a contributing factor.

"This issue isn’t linked to sewage," she said. "The issue at Heacham is seabird waste on the nearby mudflats is the main source of the water quality issues.

She attached findings from a study which used a DNA-based technique to determine the sources of faecal bacteria in an aquatic environment.

It concluded that, at Heacham, seabird DNA markers are found in higher concentrations than for other sources such as human, cattle and dog.