A DISABLED woman battling cancer who campaigned to clear Hoylake beach for years called for her town’s “crown jewel” to be restored.

Charlotte Smith, who lives in Hoylake, used to visit the beach with her father as a child but the growth of vegetation following the pause in management of the beach by Wirral Council meant she no longer feels safe walking on it. At Wirral Council meetings, she has regularly called on the local authority to clear slipways, remove the vegetation, and allow access for those with disabilities.

Ms Smith, who is a member of the Hoylake Beach Community, previously told the LDRS about her relationship with the area and how access to it helped her, she said: “It meant the ability for me to go out, either to think about things that were troubling me or just enjoy going for a walk. It was an amenity area for me to go, along with other people. I can’t do that now with all the grass and the weeds.”

She has several disabilities including difficulties with her vision and in 2023, she revealed she had been diagnosed with cancer, adding: “I am angered that my access to the beach has been taken away from me and the mess that is there now is damaging my blue health needs which in my opinion will be crucial as I battle this insidious disease.” Blue health is the idea being near or on water is good for physical and mental health.

At a Wirral Council environment committee meeting, councillors from three parties voted to pursue plans to clear three hectares of the beach working with regulator Natural England to try and get it approved. This was following a push by both Wirral Council’s leader Cllr Paul Stuart and leader of the Conservatives, Cllr Jeff Green.

However, the plans will face an uphill battle to be approved as Natural England have said they would not support it. The beach is a protected area and any work on it is not expected to take place until April 2025 at the earliest. Wirral Council does not plan to go ahead with work without Natural England permission due to the legal risks.

Before councillors made their decision, Ms Smith read out a statement on behalf of the beach community who have campaigned for an amenity beach between King’s Gap and the RNLI Lifeboat station. She said: “Hoylake beach was a crown jewel of Hoylake that has been taken away from us without any consultation whatsoever. It was a much loved amenity beach.”

She said the beach had previously been used for cultural events such as firework displays, a tug of war, as well as picnics and family days out, adding it “gave space to those who may not have their own back gardens.”

She added: “People with disabilities, including hidden disabilities are now denied access to Hoylake beach thanks to the appalling state of the slipways as well as the overgrown and unmanaged vegetation on the beach. The socio-economic impact on local business and community has been detrimental as well.”

She said: “Wirral Borough Council has time and time again ignored the strength of feeling particularly of local residents wanting the return of the much loved amenity beach. A 14,000 strong petition was completely ignored and never debated in any council or environment committee meeting.

“We believe the results of this latest consultation speaks for itself. We are not a noisy minority as previously claimed. Residents have shown with this consultation that they want their amenity beach back.

“It is time this committee acts on behalf of its employers, the council tax payer, and restore Hoylake beach to the shining crown jewel it once was.”

In response to an earlier question by Ms Smith, Wirral Council said it will ensure access for disabled people a priority going forward when developing any future management plan for Hoylake beach. According to the local authority, it paused beach management ahead of permission expiring in 2021 to allow for studies to be undertaken and stopped the use of glyphosate and raking the beach in 2019.

In response to a previous question on the issue, Wirral Council said: “The Council previously had permission, or assent, from Natural England for removal of selectively targeted species of grasses. That assent has now expired and early advice received from Natural England sets out that the same type of management would not now receive Natural England assent based on improved knowledge and evidence showing chemical treatment and raking is not effective. The Council has to find a new way of managing the beach.”

At the meeting, Hoylake councillor Max Booth called for the council to send a united message to Natural England and praised the community group. He said: “I don’t think we’d be sitting here without them. They have been determined, committed, and unbelievably passionate and it’s been heartwarming to see as a ward councillor.

“Yes there is different opinions and I respect all opinions. I would say there have been comments made in the past Hoylake is divided and this is a divided community. I will say as a ward councillor I don’t think it’s ever been more united.”