19 Oct 2021

Rewilding Hoylake Beach is not only good for nature, it's essential for the future of Hoylake town

Sadly, last night's meeting of Wirral Council did not debate motion #2 on Hoylake Beach:

link to text of motion

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:

link to Nature Positive 2030 Summary 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.

For example 

  • 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

but especially 

  • 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.



12 Aug 2021

Why changes to car parking charges are good for Wirral


There is a lot of coverage in the press and on social media on agreed changes to car parking charges in Wirral. There are many reasons why I voted for this change. I’ve tried to set them out as briefly and clearly as possible below:


Wirral Council faces an acute budget crisis that threatens the provision of essential services. The government has agreed in principle to lend £10.7 million to cover this year’s shortfall. However, this money is not guaranteed and is dependent upon a robust plan to balance our finances for the current year and over the longer term.

Our most recent budget, which was agreed unanimously in March, includes a provision to increase revenue from car parking by £1 million. The Environment Committee has fulfilled its remit to provide for this following an extensive review of charges. This review commenced back in October last year. 20 different options were presented to members which were gradually reduced down to those considered at its meeting in May. There has been ample time for everyone involved to ask questions and gather relevant information. Charges at existing paid-for car parks will be standardised at £1 per hour up to a maximum of £5 per day. There will be a public consultation on introducing charges for those car parks which are currently free and at a variety of on-street coastal locations.

By law, Wirral Council cannot make a profit from car parking charges. These changes would mean the car parking service would, at last, “wash its face” and would no longer be a drain on other council services.


Stark inequalities across Wirral’s population are well known and well documented. Inequalities are acute when it comes to transport due to the high cost of public transport relative to the private car. These inequalities are exacerbated due to the long-standing priority given to traffic flow. This has led to much of our urban design being focused on traffic rather than people (which we are now investing heavily in to try and reverse via our regeneration schemes, especially in Birkenhead). This leads to inherent discrimination against non-car owners who disproportionately suffer the negative side effects from a degraded local environment and poor air quality. This in turn contributes to health inequalities and reduced life expectancy – respiratory failure is one of the four main health conditions contributing to massive differences in life expectancy across Wirral.

Furthermore, we know that 24% of Wirral adults are classified as “inactive” getting less than 30 minutes exercise per week. We have obligations as a council to address this and to consider appropriate measures that encourage people to walk, cycle or use public transport.

Car parking charges can assist all of the above by reducing car journeys, easing congestion and addressing the socially regressive effects caused by free parking provision which forces the, generally less well off, non-car owners to subsidise parking provision for wealthier car owners.


As the expert witness at our committee meeting made clear, published research does not support the instinctive view that proportionate parking charges damage town centres. The more successful town centres actively discourage traffic and create cleaner, more pleasant town centre environments where people can shop safely. There is a clear trend towards this across the country and beyond. Where charges are introduced, evidence suggests that there may be a short-term reduction is usage but, over a relatively short period, this tends to recover.

In addition, car parking charges encourage the efficient use of parking spaces. As surveys consistently show, anxiety about the availability of parking is of more concern to most drivers than charges. It follows that free parking provision in our coastal areas leads to the inefficient use of parking spaces, heightens anxiety around availability and increases congestion and pollution as drivers search out free parking spaces. Far better to have a consistent charging regime with appropriate use of resident parking schemes should displacement create localised problems.

None of the above should detract in any way from some terrible planning decisions made by Wirral Council in the past. Permitting retail parks such as The Croft in Bromborough, where the council has no control over parking conditions, was always going to undermine our traditional town centres. This is now exacerbated by a seemingly endless stream of new supermarket permissions which further erode town centre viability.


Basic economics teaches us that raising the price of any good or service reduces demand. Introducing or increasing car parking charges will lead to lower demand and will cut car journeys. Some people will use alternatives – notably walking to local shops rather than driving or making use of their free bus pass. Others will use their car more efficiently and do a larger shop in one go rather than making multiple trips.

It follows that charges will result in lower emissions of carbon and also particulates that affect air quality. It is worth noting that the all-party committee on climate change estimates that, even with full electrification of road transport, we still need to reduce car miles travelled by 17% to meet our current (inadequate) carbon targets.

In summary, these changes are, I believe, a proportionate response to a financial crisis and will correct a long-standing socially regressive policy while at the same time helping the council to meet its health and environmental policies.


28 Feb 2021

Green Budget proposals would support youth, culture, nature and climate

In the face of an awful pandemic, a government that fails to adequately support local authorities and incredibly challenging financial situation Wirral's Green councillors have identified almost £300k in savings that will support youth, culture and climate funding and abolish proposals to charge more for environmental services such as ERIC and garden waste collections. We would also halt the ill-considered proposals for development in Royden Park

 Don't be surprised if others nick some of our ideas......




Date of Budget Council:     Monday 1st March 2021

Proposed by:                        Cllr Cleary

Seconded by:                       Cllr Cooke



That the motion being proposed to adopt a Revenue Budget of £329.4m is amended, so as:


(1)       The following are deleted:



Savings proposal № 11

“Royden Park Commercial Development – Phase 1:


Proposals for a high-wire facility at Royden Park have not been scrutinised thoroughly or subjected to serious, informed, public consultation. Alternative sites have only had a cursory examination. A rigorous assessment needs to be undertaken of the likely impact on Royden Park should this project proceed. In addition, it is very unlikely that a proposal which is still at the design stage and has yet to achieve necessary permissions could deliver a significant surplus in the coming financial year.





Savings proposal № 30

“Charging for a range of new and existing Environmental: Services”


Proposed increase in charges for environmental services are socially damaging and environmentally regressive. Charging for services including ERIC, wheely bin repairs/replacements and school recycling collections would impact negatively on the amount of waste recycled and could result in additional cost pressures from higher landfill charges and increased fly-tipping






(2)       The following:



Savings proposal № 1 

“Reduce the subsidy to the Hive Youth Centre from £400k to £300k, (instead of £200k in 2021/22 only): £100,000, to read:


Reduce the subsidy to the Hive Youth Centre from        £400k to £315k (for 2021/22 only):











Savings proposal № 27

“Savings from efficiencies at the Williamson Art Gallery: £90,000”, to read


Savings from efficiencies at the Williamson Art Gallery:










Savings proposal № 36

“Climate Emergency Budget Balance: £100,000” , to read


Climate Emergency Budget Balance:









(3)      The budget gap of £275,000 that would thereby be created is then met, retaining a balanced budget of £329.4m by


Insertion of the following budget savings proposals:



“Filling Staff vacancies:


Our people are our greatest asset and council is grateful for the immense efforts our staff have undertaken over the past year to support residents during an incredibly difficult period.


To support our staff in the year ahead Council agrees that vacancies should generally be filled on a timely basis. This will reduce pressures on existing staff and support employment in Wirral during a very difficult time for our local economy.


To achieve these aims Council assumes that vacancies filled will, on average, be at the mid-point on the relevant salary scale rather than the top of the relevant salary scale. Whilst this has the potential in an ideal year to generate £480,000 in savings it is prudent for a variety of reasons to assume that half of that potential can be achieved.

Saving = £240,000.




“Changes to golf fees:


Council notes the results of the public consultation on the budget and shares our residents’ concern at the level of council subsidy for our public golf courses (currently £335,000 p.a.).


To reduce the level of council subsidy for public golf whilst further work is undertaken on its future provision in Wirral, this Council agrees that fees and charges for public golf are increased across the board by 5% for 2021/22.

Saving = £35,000