Sadly, last night's meeting of Wirral Council did not debate motion #2 on Hoylake Beach:
If it had, I would have laid out the following arguments why leaving the beach alone is critical for the future wellbeing of the town itself, never mind the many benefits for nature which are already apparent since the regressive spraying/raking policy was abandoned.
The Green Group rejects the basis of this motion. It is scientifically inaccurate and if adopted would be damaging to the people of Hoylake and beyond, ruinous for wildlife and extremely expensive for Wirral Council.
Spartina is now classified by Natural England as an endemic not an invasive species. It is not invading the North Wirral foreshore; it is migrating as beach levels rise naturally. In fact, it is already virtually extinct at Hoylake and will very likely be replaced by a diverse and rich dune and saltmarsh habitat. In time, the entire North Wirral foreshore will likely revert to sand dunes.
This is fantastic news for Wirral – for our wildlife, our residents and the future financial wellbeing of Wirral Council.
Dunes will defend us from sand storms and sea storm surges without the need for expensive, artificial defences such as currently being implemented for West Kirby at a cost of millions of pounds.
This is because the beach at Hoylake is rising rapidly over time. At present, nearly all of the sand that could reach the promenade is stopped by the sea wall. If, as beach levels continue to rise, we don’t allow sand dunes to form, then we can expect disruptive amounts of sand several times a year. The clean-up costs to the council would be measured in hundreds of thousands of pounds, even before you consider the damage to property.
Furthermore, the suggestion in this motion that Spartina could be damaging for migratory birds has no credible basis. In July a letter from the RSPB and the British Trust for Ornithology corrected the view that the evolution of the foreshore is detrimental to wading birds. In response to this motion, the RSPB’s site manager for the Dee Estuary is again contacting the Council to reiterate this message.
In fact, the rewilding of Hoylake beach is, surprise, surprise, amazing for wildlife. Most notable is the emergence of Linnets (a red-listed endangered species) which have appeared in significant numbers. Pied Wagtails, Meadow and Rock Pipits, Starlings, Plovers and Snow Buntings are just some of the birds seen in greater numbers since we stopped spraying and raking Hoylake Beach. More and more people are coming to Hoylake for bird watching. The frequent postings of bird life on social media are a joy to behold. This of course reflects the increased volume of plants and insects for birds to feed on.
All of the existing and emerging evidence supports the view that leaving our foreshore to evolve naturally has multiple benefits. It is also entirely consistent with Natural England guidance to local authorities which includes deploying nature-based solutions by default and ensuring wildlife thrives within protected areas on land and sea.
Just last month the Joint Nature Conservation Committee which includes Natural England issued the Nature Positive 2030 report:
The report places the ecological crisis and biodiversity loss on an equal footing with the climate crisis because curbing climate breakdown goes hand in hand with protecting nature to benefit both humans and wildlife.
The main thrust of the report is that we need to tackle the twin crises of climate and biodiversity loss together.
The report identified 9 changes that can be delivered NOW by national and local governments.
This motion clearly goes against their recommendations.
- Ensure wildlife thrives within protected areas - these areas are precious and need to be the beating hearts of nature networks. The beach in Wirral is nationally and internationally protected.
- Invest in habitat restoration and creation to strengthen nature networks - we need to create large areas of protected wildlife habitat
- Adopt targets to become nature positive, so that nature goals are put on an equal footing with climate change ambitions
- Deploy Nature-based solutions by default - decision-makers need to start asking can nature provide a solution.
At Hoylake, nature is the solution and it is our duty as councillors to sustain and support that solution.