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Beach plans hit stumbling block
The man with a plan to boost beach levels between New Brighton and Seacombe with two million tonnes of sand waste, has refused to be dismayed by potential environmental and technical stumbling blocks.
John Lamb, who masterminded a beach nourishment scheme at New Brighton 25 years ago, is urging regeneration giant Peel to consider diverting 20% of sand destined for deep waters onto local beaches.
He wrote a special booklet on his seafront vision and sent copies to both Peel and Wirral Council. He pointed out that the Mersey shipping lanes yielded more than a million tonnes of sand every year in operations carried out by Peel-owned Mersey Docks and Harbour Company.
All the sand is dumped in the Irish Sea.
In a statement Peel Ports-Mersey said they welcomed Mr Lamb’s “interesting” proposal regarding a potential replenishment of New Brighton beach.
But they added: “After some careful consideration we feel there are a number of regulatory and practical considerations that would need to be addressed in relation to such a scheme.
“These relate to the fact that the proposed site is home to come of the EU’s rarest bird life, and as such is protected under an EU directive.”
The statement added: “Peel Ports is keen to work with local communities, interest groups and regulators to further the growth aspirations set out within our Mersey Ports Master Plan, subject to initiatives being undertaken in a sustainable and environmentally responsive manner.”
It also indicates that the beach between New Brighton and Egremont is a site of scientific interest and is designated as part of the Mersey Narrows and North Wirral foreshore potential Special Protection area and a proposed wetland area of international importance.
It says further that the site supports many rare migratory birds and more than 20,000 water birds during the non-breeding season.
And it warns that the EC Birds Directive would question whether there were any alternative solutions to the scheme and whether it was needed for reasons of overriding public interest. It would also seek reassurance as to whether the appropriate compensatory habitats could be provided.
Birkenhead-born Mr Lamb, a 49-year-old teacher in South Liverpool, said: “There are precedents for sand replenishment schemes in sites of special scientific interest – the resort of Morecambe for instance – but every case is different.
“We need to look at the environmental impact of creating higher, sandier beaches in this part of an SSSI. Sand is fantastic wildlife habitat and if Natural England gave consent – as they did in Morecambe – then it could potentially happen.
“It would then be down to a mutually beneficial partnership between Wirral Council and Peel Ports to determine the size and timescale of a sand replenishment scheme that can only succeed if it costs Wirral Council absolutely nothing.”
Mr Lamb has compiled an 18-page craft document on the possible environmental impact of sand replenishment at Egremont. Copies have been sent to all local and regional conservation organisations inviting feedback.
Earlier this month Wirral Council’s head of cultural services Jim Lester said the local authority needed to look at the overall benefits of Mr Lamb’s scheme; the impact on the local environment and how cost effective it would be to implement.
He said: “Mr Lamb’s views are particularly timely given that we are currently consulting on our future strategy for Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management.
“This explores a similar option to Mr Lamb’s, recognising however that additional investigation is required to ensure any future work is environmentally, technically, socially and financially sustainable.”