THE SPARTINA MYTH
Many people readily acknowledge that all attempts to eradicate the non-native Spartina anglica – considered anecdotally to be the dominant species of grass at Hoylake, and most readily identified by its spiky, flat profile and upright leaves – has never succeeded.
In the apparent absence of any viable alternative control methods, until 2019, the view of Natural England, the council, and many members of the public has held that continued chemical spraying and raking of Spartina from the beach was the only option in order to prevent it spreading and to preserve the “golden sands” of Hoylake; a forcefully presented promise of politicians for decades amid fears of Hoylake “going like Parkgate, with mosquitoes and rats”.
But there’s a few problems with this approach…
AND THE POINT IS?
THE DRAINAGE DILEMMA
Windblown sand is also, inevitably, creating problems for drains and surface water drainage, resulting in polluted water along the foreshore, which creates an environment for unwanted vegetation to thrive at the slipways and along the promenade wall.
This is a very different issue to any ‘natural’ beach grass development and distinct from poor tidal drainage further out on the beach which is a consequence of the relatively flat beach profile.
This aerial photo of the area to the right of the old toilet block at the end of Trinity Road shows this very clearly. Go take a look for yourself, and also have a look at the Kings Gap slipway (below).
Very quickly, all will become clear.
Look for brighter green, more dense vegetation than anywhere else on the beach, or growing from the promenade wall, and consider where that is getting its nutrients from. Polluted water is certainly a contributing factor.
Look for thick, healthy ‘meadow grass’… similar to grasses you will find in fields.
And look for unblocked surface water drains, which release large volumes of black, anoxic water on to the beach, full of plastic rubbish, oil, rubber and other pollutants.
STATUTORY FRAMEWORKS: BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE
The Assent for beach management activities from Natural England reminds Wirral Council of its obligations under Section 28G of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (WCA): “Natural England also brings to your attention that, as a Section 28G body of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 (as amended), you are required to take reasonable steps, consistent with the proper exercise of your functions to further the conservation and enhancement of the SSSI.” (SSSI = Site of Special Scientific Interest, defined more clearly by the WCA as “flora, fauna or geological or physiographical features by reason of which the site is of special scientific interest”).
It is important to take into account the geomorphological and habitat changes in the beach since the original “citation” that was conducted by English Nature (now Natural England) over 30 years ago in 1986; not least that the beach level has risen by over one metre in that time. The “citation” is a description and list of reasons for designating the site as a SSSI.
The concluding statement of the Beach Management Agreement therefore puts WMBC between a rock and a hard place, since it is simply no longer possible for the council to simultaneously achieve the objectives of the Agreement, which directly result in the ongoing suppression of saltmarsh and dune succession, while satisfying their S28G duties under the Wildlife and Countryside Act to “conserve and enhance” the SSSI; while securing “net gains in biodiversity” – a key objective of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
WHY DO WE BOTHER?
HVL consider the beach and promenade to be a missed opportunity for Hoylake that could be offering so much more to locals and visitors alike, while connecting better with the high street, without adversely impacting its quiet and special character.
Most importantly, we can make it a much greater asset for future generations.
We feel compelled to scrutinise the assumed and generally unchallenged wisdom that has informed the council’s as well as our elected representatives’ approach to beach management to date, and we will make no apologies for that.
We have done a great deal of research over eight years and have taken expert advice every step of the way.
A new post-2020 beach management agreement must surely take current evidence and data into account if it is to have any meaningful and sustainable environmental and economic benefits.
Please read all the information on this website, and get in touch if you have any questions.
But before you do, look at the slider below. Does a dune system look so bad to you?
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