BUSINESSES have launched a staunch defence of Clacton’s reputation as a top seaside resort after a scathing survey ranked it the joint worst in the country.

Clacton joined Bognor Regis, in Sussex, at the bottom of a table ranking 97 British coastal destinations following a poll by independent consumer body Which?

The survey, which involved 3,000 people, asked holidaymakers to rate their recent visits to British seaside tourist hotspots.

Clacton earned a joint lowest customer score of 47 per cent, with critical reviews taking aim at its attractions, scenery, peacefulness and value for money.

The town received the harsh rating despite recent multi-million pound regeneration work to its pier and pavilion, its popular annual air show and award-winning seafront gardens.

Alex Porter, Tendring councillor responsible for tourism, said: “That’s not to mention the Green Flag seafront gardens, two great theatres, eateries offering everything from fish and chips to Greek and Mexican cuisine, and we’re just over an hour from London.

“Although 3,000 people took part in the survey it would be interesting to know how many people actually had their say about Clacton and when they visited.”

Mr Porter said Clacton has "never pretended" to be a peaceful tourist destination.

“It is also worth noting that though Southwold placed eighth in this survey, carried out in February, it has since lost its Blue Flag award – while Tendring district has two, as well as a Seaside Award for Clacton," he said.

"Clacton has never pretended to be peaceful – it is a family destination – and cannot compete with some of the scenery of Wales or Scotland, though it can be very beautiful.

"The council works closely with partners in the town to make Clacton, along with the rest of Tendring, the best it can be.

"We recognise it is not perfect and there is still plenty to be done but we are working together on lots of things, such as our recent bid to the Better High Streets Fund and our cliff stabilisation project to improve access to the new sandy beaches at Holland-on-Sea.

“If you’ve not been to Clacton recently – why not come and judge it for yourself?”

Branding some of the criticism “unfair”, Billy Ball, managing director of Clacton Pier, said the town still attracts millions of visitors every year

“There has been huge investment in the beaches, seafront, gardens and its businesses as we all believe in the town and its future,” he said.

“We have spent £4 million on its recent refurbishment and there is more to come.

"Other companies have also improved facilities and upped standards and we are all proud of the way things are moving forwards.”

Rory Boland, Which? travel editor, said: “These ratings won’t make happy reading for some of those destinations many of us remember from childhood breaks of times gone by, which may have failed to keep pace with trendier destinations or those offering a better experience.”

Bamburgh, in Northumberland, scooped the top spot, earning an overall customer score of 89 per cent.