Campaigners have put in a bid to make Hoylake Beach a “village green” in their campaign to see it return to “golden sands.”
The application was submitted by Hoylake councillors Max Booth, Andrew Gardner, and Tony Cox, and looks to create a designated area of land where people have the right to enjoy sports and days out.
The move could have consequences for the future management of the beach where the debate has been described as “toxic” and like a “civil war” in the seaside town.
It stems from a decision in 2019 to stop spraying the beach with weed killer after the council was threatened with an unlimited fine. Since then vegetation and embryo sand dunes have developed on the beach dividing opinion on whether it should be left alone or cleared.
Wirral Council, which owns the beach, is currently developing two options with environmental advisors that could either see a small stretch of the beach cleared of vegetation or the entire beach left to develop naturally.
It will most likely become sand dunes according to a scientific report. A consultation found while support for clearing all sand dunes was higher in Hoylake, 38% wanted some sand dunes and 27% wanted sand dunes to develop across the whole beach there too.
A legal letter has also been sent to Wirral Council calling for the council not to progress further with the consultation until the village green outcome is known.
The letter argues the two management options put forward by the council would “both restrict the community’s right to undertake sports and pastimes over the whole of the area registered as a village green.”
The letter also called for the council to begin “managing the beach in the interim period” arguing it would “prejudice” any future plan. This will have to be approved by Natural England but clearing vegetation faces the hurdle of being in a protected habitat containing rare species.
Natural England in previous advice given to Wirral Council said any vegetation removal would have to be “very targeted, tightly controlled and monitored” and “vegetation control across the whole coast would not be acceptable as this is likely to be contrary to the site’s conservation objectives, it is also unlikely to be economic or sustainable.”
However local councillors who want to see the vegetation cleared believe the application could help their case.
Cllr Max Booth said, “I’m delighted to deliver this application. It’s time to preserve the beach for the people of Hoylake forever” while Cllr Tony Cox added, “Plants have their place but so do people. The people of Hoylake are clear what they want for their beach”.
Cllr Andrew Gardner said, “All through the future of the beach debate we have argued that the beach is Hoylake’s only significant amenity space. This will secure and prove that status in law”.
However, Jane Turner, Chair of Wirral’s Green Party, argued it would do little to change the status of the beach which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. She doesn’t oppose an application for a village green but as the beach is subject to international environmental regulations, she argued this would overrule any village green legislation.
She said, “It doesn’t change anything. If it came into being it would prevent a land owner from stopping access to a beach but that is not going to happen. I don’t think it makes any difference at all.
“My personal position is that the beach is defined as the intertidal zone which is currently seaward of the “green beach” and we should be entirely supportive of efforts to secure access to the beach without damaging the previous habitat that has formed.”
A spokesperson for Wirral Council confirmed an application had been received. Natural England were also approached for comment.
Image: Hoylake Beach photographed in 2021