A CRUNCH meeting this month will be critical to the success or failure of a venture to boost beach levels between New Brighton and Seacombe.

John Lamb, who masterminded a beach nourishment scheme at New Brighton more than 25 years ago, acknowledges that Natural England, as guardians of the site, can make or break the scheme. He will meet their representatives on site at the end of January.

And he realises that if Natural England raise objections to the project then it faces collapse.

John is urging regeneration giant Peel to consider diverting dredged sand destined for deep waters onto the beach at Egremont.

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.

The initiative has thrown up a series of environmental and technical obstacles but John, a 50-year-old teacher in South Liverpool, is convinced they can be overcome.

He will press for a trial scheme to be set up involving the creation of a "penalty area" sized beach from a couple of dredger loads of sand.

John said: "Small pocket beaches could be a solution. Natural England insist that the only way to justify replenishment of the beach is to improve wild life habitat.

"It all hinges on being able to proceed with these pocket beaches to benefit the birds.

"Other benefits like recreation aren’t on the agenda; it will be purely on ecological grounds.

"In 1987 when the New Brighton beach replenishment took place it wasn't a site of scientific interest and the constraints weren't there."

He went on: "Natural England want to discuss the environmental impact of the scheme.

"I believe that this is so small scale the chances of it doing damage is very low.

"It involves small pocket beaches to increase the amount of existing sand at Egremont Ferry and Manor Lane and if it gets the approval of Natural England it could provide a springboard to move forward.

"If they disagree then the project will not go ahead."

John argues that the natural environment of the foreshore 100 years ago was sand and that the area was gradually sanding over once again.

He said: "If this happens the only way to maintain rocky habits for wildlife would be to dump rocks in the area."

John's proposals were well received at a conference last July organised by the Marine Biological Association and he pointed out that an EU directive last year laid down that marine conservation must not be looked at in isolation, but include the needs of adjacent communities and local initiatives.

He observed: "It will ultimately be up to Natural England to decide the optimum balance – if any – between wildlife and people."