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Monday, 21 March 2011 (3013278)
'Grab a grant' council want to put sheep on sand dunes
by Natasha Young

SEFTON'S cabinet member for leisure and tourism is recommended to approve controversial plans to build grazing pens on Ainsdale and Birkdale's sand dunes today (Wednesday).

During a meeting at Southport Town Hall, a proposal for the council to enter into a Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) agreement with Natural England and receive a revenue grant of nearly £55,000 and a more than £103,500 in a capital grant, will be discusses.

The funding will allow fencing, costing £118,000 to be built on the local nature reserve site for sheep to graze there.

But the plans have attracted opposition from the Friends of Ainsdale and Birkdale Local Nature Reserve Group, which claims the grazing pens will restrict access to the area and also suggests the scheme will turn the dunes into farmland “on the flawed basis that it will preserve biodiversity”.

A Sefton Council report said: “Low level sheep grazing will help to maintain a species rich low sward and have a positive impact on controlling the spread of scrub species to the benefit of dune plants, invertebrates and herptiles in particular.”

However a spokesperson for the campaign group, which has delivered flyers to local residents and has attracted more than 180 signatures in an online petition, said: “So why is Sefton Council planning on spending time and money on a scheme that will not have a significant positive impact on the flora and fauna of the SSSI? Why would they erect a substantial amount of fencing which would undoubtedly disturb the wildlife and have a severe visual impact? The answer is that once again they have ”grabbed a grant“ and are intending to exploit Sefton’s beautiful coast for financial gain.

”Hopefully, there will be a full consultation with all interested parties, and an Environmental Impact Assessment will be conducted before any work begins but that will come at a severe cost to the taxpayers of Sefton. However, cost seems of little importance as Coast and Country have just paid £3,000 on chopping down trees along the Birkdale corridor between the two golf courses, which is the route the sheep will take to get to the pens.

Campaigner Alex Birch wrote to The Champion: “No public forum has been arranged and people do not want this. All the people who use the dunes that have been approached are utterly disgusted at the plans.

”It is not a case of whether people think it will cost us money, regardless of where the money comes from it will ruin a beautiful, natural habitat of hundreds of species of wildlife and stop people using it. This is not disused scrub land which no one will miss... It has been frequented for 65years by dog walkers and ramblers, nature lovers and bird watchers a like.“


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