Hoylake beach debate reaches the ballot box

Hoylake beach
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A retired teacher has thrown his hat into the ring at the local elections on a platform of campaigning to get Hoylake beach raked again.

The council’s decision to pause raking pending the preparation of a new management plan has polarised the local community, with a number of different groups arguing the case for and against.

An initial public consultation was due to get under way in January, but has not yet begun.

Local resident John Ellis is standing as an independent candidate in the Hoylake and Meols ward on a pro-raking ticket.

He told West Kirby Today: “I believe that this is necessary to give the voters in the ward a chance to show where they stand on the issue.

“I would like to become a member of the council so that I can work in a non-adversarial way to reinstate a programme of beach management.

“I believe that this would be of great benefit to locals and visitors alike and would give people the opportunity to improve their physical and mental health.

“If elected I would not take the councillors allowance for personal use after expenses I will donate the surplus to local charities such as the RNLI and Hoylake and Meols in Bloom.

“I will also hold regular surgeries so that I can present any concerns that constituents have to the appropriate council department.”

Grass at Hoylake beach

We asked the other local election candidates for Hoylake and Meols their views on the beach.

Their responses are published in the alphabetical order of the party they are standing for.

Conservative Party – Tony Cox

Mr Cox was the only candidate who did not respond to our request for a comment, sent on 12 April. However, he has previously expressed anger that local councillors were not involved in the decision making process to pause raking. He said he feared if the grass was not raked local people would be left with no amenity space in the town apart from a small park and a football pitch.

Green Party – Alix Cockroft

“As a scientist I fully endorse the scientific view of this issue. The beach should be allowed to develop naturally, which in time would lead to sand-dunes forming, the normal environment for this part of the coast.

“Raking off vegetation only frees the sand to blow in over the promenade, a problem which has developed over decades as the Hoyle Lake has gradually filled up with millions of tons of sand. This is not to say a compromise that allows some amenity beach is impossible, but it has to be balanced with maximising the volume of retained internationally important Annex 1 habitat, cited in the Special Area of Conservation Area to be acceptable to the ultimate decision-maker, Natural England and minimises the risk of adding to already significant (£46,000 per annum) costs of clearing up windblown sand to Wirral’s Council Tax payers.”

Labour Party – David Sindall

“Some of the candidates focus on Hoylake beach, often at the detriment of other areas. Yes, it’s an issue that some people feel strongly about, but there’s a huge amount more to look at too.

“We live in a fantastic area, with a wealth of bustling independent businesses and a friendly, welcoming community. We have excellent community groups here, putting up Christmas lights, organising family events and running volunteer organisations.

“To borrow an old phrase, as a community there is more that unites us than divides us. That’s why I love living here and that’s the feedback that I’ve been getting on the doorstep.”

Liberal Democrat Party – Peter Reisdorf

“I regret that the whole issue of the beach has divided the community so deeply and I would have hoped that there could have been a compromise that would leave part of the beach as a leisure area. That seems unlikely now.

“The beach has been unmanaged for so long that getting rid of the grass from even a small area now would be incredibly difficult. It will be even more difficult when the Council implements a new management plan next year after the consultation process.

“Clearly there is little that can be done about the build-up of sand, which appears to be the result of the change in flow of the River Dee caused by the canalising of the Dee between Chester and Shotton nearly 300 years ago.

“The impact of that has gradually moved down the estuary in the subsequent centuries and has been effecting the area around the mouth of the river for decades.

“One thing has puzzled me and that is the campaigners’ emphasis on the Council. As I understand it, whatever the Council decides to do about beach management at Hoylake, including if they decide to do nothing, has to be approved by Natural England. If the Council wants to do something that Natural England disapproves of then it won’t happen. It seems to me that Natural England will make the final decision.”

Voters go to the polls on Thursday 5 May.

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