Council awarded over £300k to develop new wetland nature reserve

Wirral Council has been awarded more than £300,000 to develop a wetland nature reserve.

£314,000 of flood management funding has been given to the local authority to work with Cheshire Wildlife Trust to turn over 60 hectares of land into a number of different habitats to improve biodiversity in and around Hoylake.

The funding will go towards developing a wetland on farmland that regularly floods called the Hoylake Carrs, sometimes known as Langfields, that sits next to the Hoylake Municipal Golf Course.

The plans will see areas of the land turned into new ponds, grassland and marsh, new woodland, and other habitats. The public will still be able to access the area with new boardwalks, with the hope it will bring more people to the area.

A map of the plans indicate the area that would become a nature reserve which is towards the West Kirby area. A red outline on the map indicates all of the land the council owns but only an area shaded blue will become the wetland.

The project is in its early stages with final funding to be confirmed as Wirral Council prepares to engage with the public about its plans. However shortly after the funding was announced, the plans were leaked on social media.

According to a briefing to councillors, water will be kept back by a small “lip” around the edge of the land which will hold water back with shallow ponds and ditches created which “aims to create an ideal habitat for wintering waders and wildfowl.” This will support wildlife in the Dee Estuary which is an internationally important habitat for migrating birds.

Following the leak, Cllr Liz Grey, who chairs the authority’s environment committee, confirmed the local authority was working with the Cheshire Wildlife Trust on the plans which has extensive experience on similar projects.

She said the proposal for a wetland had first been floated by members of a campaign group against luxury golf resort plans on the same land years ago and the council had been independently working on a wetland proposal since.

Cllr Grey said there was evidence people’s health and well-being improves with access to green space and the outdoors, adding, “The whole point of this is at the moment we have got access to 8% of England. The rest is private property. That 8% is massively overused and some people do not have access to it so it’s really important we improve access to green spaces. That was the whole point of my supporting this is that people could go and get their wellies on.”

Cllr Grey said the proposal would have other benefits such as education opportunities too as well as help offset any loss of habitat from developments taking place on brownfield sites elsewhere in Wirral. The council plans to build at least 17,000 homes before 2040.

She also said turning the fields into a nature reserve would prevent an area of green belt from ever being developed, adding, “It’s absolutely wonderful but important for the local community as it protects the land for the community for years to come.”

The land that would be transformed into a wetland. Credit: GOOGLE

The local economy could also see a benefit. Places like a wetland in Martin Mere in Lancashire see up to 200,000 visitors a year bringing £6m into the local economy. Cllr Grey said, “It’s obviously going to be a tourist attraction and part of our visitor economy and bring more people to the West Kirby and Hoylake area. They will visit local restaurants and businesses and maybe even stay over and boost the local economy.”

Concerns had been raised that the proposal might cause flooding but Cllr Grey said that by holding water back instead of draining it quickly, the Birket would be less likely to flood downstream in places like Leasowe and Moreton.

Cllr Grey said the authority that manages flooding was also in support of the proposal, adding, “There is no way this will make flooding worse but actually will make flooding a lot better. We have built on flood plains across Wirral and those houses will be massively protected if the water can be contained.”

Following the initial investment, the briefing said that once any initial plans are finalised, the Cheshire Wildlife Trust would develop a plan to fund remaining works and manage the site over 30 years.

The council currently receives rent from a farming tenant who has been notified.

Lead image: The fields that could be turned into a new nature reserve. Credit: Ed Barnes. Commissioned for use by LDR partners

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