After being worried that our access over the local sand dune trails might be severely limited due to the plans for sheep pens in the area I wrote to MP John Pugh.Yesterday I recieved a reply.
I have copied it here for all of you who may have concerns can read it.
Your email to John Pugh has been forwarded to me for my comments, regarding the proposed sheep grazing on Ainsdale & Birkdale dunes.
Sefton has a legal obligation to maintain the integrity of the SSSI
This scheme is 1 of many included in the agreed policy:
Sefton’s Coastal Landscape Partnership
It went to Cabinet member for Leisure & Tourism on 21st April 2010. The report contained the following extract:
Dune and Scrub Management – this project is mainly concerned with the management of the open dune system. It will develop a balanced approach to scrub management on the nature conservation sites, by tackling the problem of invasive scrub while implementing sustainable practices such as grazing and the conservation of scrub features for habitat and landscape values. This project will target areas of the Sefton Coast SSSI and Special Area of Conservation (SAC) in Unfavourable Condition and declining to assist land managers in restoring the dune landscape to Favourable Condition. The majority of this work will take place on the Birkdale Hills unit of the SSSI in the ownership of Sefton Council and will assist the Council in resolving a ‘risk’ identified in the Leisure and Tourism Service Delivery Plan.
It then went to Full Cabinet on 20th May
I include the above to highlight the fact that this scheme has been a council policy for some time. Proceedings actually started on 2005
Lottery money was obtained as part of the Landscape Project to clear the scrub.
Sefton then applied for, and won, a HLS bid - HLS stands for Higher Level Stewardship from Natural England as below:
Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) aims to deliver significant environmental benefits in high priority situations and areas.
HLS is usually combined with ELS or OELS options. There is a wide range of management options, and these are designed to support key features of the different areas of the English countryside. HLS can contribute to a wide range of capital works such as restoration of hedgerows or traditional farm buildings.
This grant will fund the grazing by sheep to maintain the cleared scrub from the dunes. A tried and tested method used in any parts of the country.
There will be 4 large areas fenced off and sheep will graze over the winter months only (October - April). Using 1 pen at a time. The other 3 pens will be empty.
Members of the public will still have access to the dunes as before. Dog walkers will need to keep their dogs under control when sheep are in the pens, but 3 out of the 4 pens will always be empty and all 4 will be empty during the summer months.
All existing paths will include stiles to enter and exit the pens. More prominent paths may have gates instead of stiles.
The fen will hardly be noticeable and it will not be barbed.
Fencing will also deter motorcycles etc from entering the dunes.
Access to the dunes, for Rangers etc will use existing routes for Land rovers and quads. Large lorries will not be accessing the dunes.
Full consultation has taken place as part of the Landscape Policy, including a display at the Ainsdale Discovery Centre.
At the moment the SSSi is classed as failing. Once the grazing is implemented it will be classed as recovering, which may take several years to complete.
The recovering SSSI will see an increase in the population of the protected Sand Lizards and Natterjack Toads. The very things that attract walkers to the dunes.
The scheme will not involve any extra expenditure by Sefton.
There are no plans to include cattle.
The scheme will receive grants each year for the next 10 years - covering the costs of 2 Rangers to patrol and manage the area. The cost of fencing is also included in the grants.
Without the grant, taking the current cuts into account, it is unlikely that any of the remaining rangers will be able to manage this area to the usual standard.
All necessary consents and assessments will be completed at no extra cost.
I hope that the above gives a more complete picture of the background and nature of the scheme.
Your main concern seems to be over access to the dunes. I hope that my reply has highlighted the fact public will still have access to the same areas of dunes and that dog walking can continue as normal with the exception that dogs will need to be under control in 1 pen at a time during winter months.
I have coped my reply to John Pugh MP
Councillor Mike Booth