Hoylake beach ‘Village Green’ approval wouldn’t ‘change anything’

An application for a Town or Village Green (TVG) was submitted earlier this year by those campaigning to see vegetation and embryonic dunes cleared from a section of Hoylake beach.

A TVG allows sports and recreation activities to take place in an area including games, picnics, dog walks and community events. People are now being asked to give their opinion on the plans.

It also prevents an area of land being developed as well as stopping anyone disturbing, occupying, or interfering with the soil “other than for the purpose of the better enjoyment of that green.” However as the beach is a site of special scientific interest, this means it is already protected from a number of activities or developments.

The law also prohibits animals being taken onto the green but Wirral Council said dog walking would be allowed but horse riding might not be allowed.

Wirral Council stopped management of the beach in 2019 following an uproar over the use of the pesticide glyphosate and since then vegetation has naturally spread across the sand. The issue has become incredibly divisive with some referring to it as a civil war and toxic at times.

The TVG application was supported by all three Conservative councillors for Hoylake who have strongly campaigned to see an area of vegetation cleared from the lifeboat station in the seaside to the King’s Gap slipway. However, those in favour of the vegetation staying have argued that as an area protected under international law, a TVG application would do little to change the status of the beach.

Wirral Council, the beach’s landowner, is currently carrying out a six-week consultation until 28 January, which will then be reviewed by the council and an independent inspector who will then make a recommendation to the council. The council will then make a final decision on the TVG proposal.

Access to the beach has been a recurring issue in the debate about its future with some claiming the vegetation now makes it harder to walk or not venture onto the beach.

Hoylake councillor Andrew Gardner said, “It wouldn’t offer any protection of vegetation or sand. What it gives protection to is the right of the people of Hoylake to do what they have always done in that area. It’s a very powerful piece of legislation.”

The term Town or Village Green has confused some but Cllr Gardner said it was just down to legislation, adding, “If we could call it village sands, we would but we can’t. We have to call it a village green application. You have to look at it not as what’s on the floor but what you can do on the ground.”

In 2012, a UK High Court judge declared beaches can become village greens but applications can sometimes get caught up in lengthy legal battles. Newhaven Beach, owned by Newhaven Port and Properties, was closed off in 2008 but an application for a TVG was eventually struck down by the Supreme Court in 2015.

Jane Turner, Wirral’s Green Party chair, said she doesn’t oppose an application but believes international environmental regulations would overrule any TVG legislation.

She previously said, “It doesn’t change anything. If it came into being it would prevent a landowner 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.”

The village green application is separate to the beach management plan currently being developed by Wirral Council which will determine what happens to the beach. The local authority said it expects an update to be given in 2024 but no specifics have been given at this stage.

Image: Hoylake Beach. Credit: Joshua Styles. Commissioned for use by LDR partners

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