WIRRAL: Hoylake beach piece
Hoylake beach, on Thursday, November 25, 2021
Hoylake beach will continue to be left to nature until at least 2023 despite claims it looks like a ‘football pitch’ or a ‘quagmire’.
Since 2019, when Wirral Council decided to stop all management of the beach after it was strongly criticised for spraying it with glyphosate, the policy of leaving it to nature has been highly controversial.
This policy will remain in place until 2023, by which time a scientific study on Hoylake beach will be finished and the public will have been consulted on what they think should happen next.
While some say the local authority should not try to work against nature, others believe the growth of grass on the beach is destroying it as an amenity beach for families to enjoy and interventions such as ‘raking’ are needed to remove the grass.
Dave Charnock, 63, from Hoylake, said he wants the grass gone.
While he would be happy to see a compromise in which only some of the beach was raked to remove grass, Mr Charnock said he had lived in Hoylake for 25 years and had known a beautiful beach for all of that time.
He worried that the beach being left to nature would lead to less people coming to the area, affecting local businesses, and that it would make it more difficult for families to enjoy the beach.
One Wirral resident, who did not want to be named, said: “It’s a beach not a football pitch.”
She added that the current beach resembled a “quagmire” and that it contained much “slush and mud”. This, she felt, would put families off visiting the beach.
Julian Priest, from Hoylake, said: “The beach should be managed in a sustainable way, something the council can afford to do [given its current tough financial position] and something that is ecologically viable.”
Mr Priest added: “The new beach management plan should be evidence based, not something made up on the back of a fag packet to suit some vocal locals.”
Also from Hoylake, Hilary, who did not want to give her surname, said: “You’ve got to concentrate on reality, the real [practical] solution which might not be what you would like.”
Hilary added that given scientific progress we know a lot more now and we should work with nature not against it.
These are two key arguments in the case against so-called ‘golden sands’ at all costs.
The idea that nature should not be interfered with and the view that activities such as raking should only resume if there is clear evidence to say they would not breach any rules governing the beach, which is designated as a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest).
Posting on the Facebook group, Hoylake Beach – The Evidence, one person said: “Although I always disagreed with the beach being sprayed down and raked, I used to believe that the plant life growing on it was ugly.
“However, after seeing people who know what they’re talking about explain how incredible it is for biodiversity and point out the charm in it, I’ve been able to change my perspective and see it for the natural beauty it really is.”
But Wendy Bennett, co-founder of Friends of Hoylake and West Kirby Beaches, has a different view. She made some strong claims against the council and the chair of its environment committee, Labour councillor Liz Grey.
Ms Bennett said: “The majority of residents of Hoylake and Meols are outraged that our amenity beach has been taken away as part of a crusade by the chair of the environment committee to ‘re-wild’ it.
“We are disgusted by the way the council has handled the issue and view it as a failure of democracy.
“The grass has been allowed to take hold over the past 2 years without being raked or treated.”
Ms Bennett added: “It is now too late to rake it and initial ploughing will be necessary for the main beach if we are to have the grasses removed.
“The result is now an unhygienic, swampy mess currently inaccessible to disabled people and a public health nuisance to families and other users.”
Cllr Grey strongly disagreed. The Labour councillor said she was open to compromise, but wanted to make sure that any future beach management plan was legal and based on scientific evidence.
Cllr Grey added: “Most of what they [Friends of Hoylake and West Kirby Beaches] have written is complete rubbish. Totally untrue. They certainly don’t speak for the majority of residents.
“Democracy means they should respect the votes that we have had so far and take part in the consultation.”
The Labour councillor added: “They are sore losers and their bullying tactics are an affront to democracy. Most people in Hoylake and beyond see right through them.”
Hoylake’s three Conservative councillors chose not to comment.
Words: George Morgan, Local Democracy Reporter
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