Clean beach campaigners have accused Brighton and Hove of making a big mistake by not entering a seaside contest.

Bournemouth beach has today been named the best in the UK in the annual Seaside Awards, organised by environmental charity Encams.

It won 99 of a possible 100 points, kicking well-combed sand in the face of those looking after Brighton and Hove's shingle shore, which was not even entered.

Encams, which runs the Keep Britain Tidy campaign, conducted a survey of 171 seaside locations.

Awards spokesman Peter Gibson said modern tourists were looking for proof of quality when planning holidays and tourism in Brighton could now suffer.

He said: "Brighton has never entered these awards and we see that as a big mistake.

"With the advent of the internet, people are becoming much more discerning. The biggest beach-users are families, people who put safety at the top of their agenda.

"They want to make sure they are on a clean and safe beach, which I'm sure Brighton is, but people are looking for that mark of quality from an independent organisation like us.

"Once people start getting awards, they get more visitors.

"Brighton not having a Seaside Award must be affecting visiting numbers."

A spokeswoman for the city council defended the decision not to enter.

She said: "Brighton and Hove's water quality and beach facilities would easily meet the standards for seafront awards.

"However, the impact of the West Pier in its current condition precludes us from being able to get an award.

"We work very hard to look after our seafront and the hundreds of thousands of visitors each year who spend summer weekends on our beaches and swimming in our seas."

The awards were introduced in 1992 and Mr Gibson said they had given beach managers a much-needed reminder to improve performance.

Points are awarded in 68 criteria, including access, safety and cleanliness.

Saving Sussex's blushes was Eastbourne, which came joint seventh alongside Clacton, Weymouth and Ramsgate, with 93 points, securing it an A grade.

Worthing also achieved grade A with a score of 82.

In the individual categories it was awarded 100 out of 100 for disabled access, 89 for beach-building maintenance and 100 for cleanliness.

Its lowest score of 65 was for beach information, such as daily water quality notices.

Maurice Tucker, Worthing's executive councillor for leisure, welcomed the recognition.

He said: "A hundred and one things go into improving the beach.

"It takes meticulous work and has always been a commitment of ours."