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Southport Reporter®

Edition No. 158

Date:- 03 July 2004

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FRESHFIELD DUNE HEATH.  PUBLIC CONSULTATION REPORT PUBLISHED.
Report with thanks to Wildlife Trust L.M.N'M.   Photograph by Patrick Trollope.

THE Lancashire Wildlife Trust has completed its three-month consultation with Formby residents and local organisations over the way forward for Freshfield Dune Heath, the land next to RAF Woodvale that it purchased from the Ministry of Defence in March.

More than 170 people returned the questionnaires that were delivered door to door in Freshfield and left in Formby Library and elsewhere. Meetings were held with local councillors and organisations with an interest in the future of the heath. 

Opinions were sought on the major issues of how the heath should be managed in future. Should the public be allowed free access? Where should any access points be located? Should horse-riders and cyclists be provided for? Are restrictions on dogs needed? Would livestock grazing or mowing be the best method of improving the condition of the heathland? How should the woodland be managed? Should views into the site be opened up? 

The consultant employed by the Wildlife Trust has now produced his report on the findings. Inevitably, a very wide range of opinions was expressed but there was a large degree of agreement.

Almost everyone valued the wild, isolated feel of the site and didn’t want it over-managed, while recognising the need for control of scrub which threatens to overwhelm the heather. A small majority would like to see grazing animals on the site but many were concerned about stock fencing spoiling the sense of openness and the effect of grazing on the heather.

A very large majority would like to see free pedestrian access and everyone agreed that motor vehicles needed to be kept off the site. Most would be happy for dog-walkers to be allowed on-site as long as their animals were under control and ‘poop-scooping’ encouraged. Opinions about cyclists and horse-riders were strongly divided but most people would be happy for facilities to provided as long as they were strictly separated from footpaths.

Almost everyone felt that promotion of the site should be low-key and largely for local people. Concerns were raised by people living on the edge of the heathland about increased vehicle parking in the vicinity and that access by foot or public transport should be encouraged. Most people felt the main access point should be by the Fisherman’s Path level crossing while some would like additional entrances on the eastern side of the heath, although concerns were raised about the heath being used as a short cut to the beach.

There was a strong feeling that, although the heather was its most important element, the mosaic of habitats, including gorse and grassland, should also be retained and improved for the benefit of wildlife, and that the woodland be managed according to the principles of the Forest Plan.

The Wildlife Trust will now study the results of the consultation process and use them to help shape its plans. No work will begin on site until October 2004 at the earliest and the Wildlife Trust will hold further consultations beforehand to ensure that local people and interest groups can continue to influence the site’s future.

Anyone wishing to see a copy of the consultant’s report should write, enclosing a large s.a.e., to Lancashire Wildlife Trust, Seaforth Nature Reserve, Port of Liverpool, L21 1JD.

Fiona Robertson, Conservation Officer for the Wildlife Trust said:-

“We are delighted by the large number of responses we have received and the enthusiasm that local people have expressed over our acquisition of the heath. We are keenly aware that this marks just the beginning of discussions over the future management of the heathland.”

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