Almost £1 Million has been allocated to the Fylde Sand Dunes Project from the Environment Agency to improve the sand dune habitat along the Fylde Coast.
Partners Blackpool Council, Fylde Council and the Lancashire Wildlife Trust have been undertaking works to implement the Sand Dune Management Plan over the last nine years. The partnership has now received approval to extend these works for a further five years at a cost of £999K. Blackpool Council led on the application, with support from officers from the Lancashire Wildlife Trust and Fylde Council.
The project, known as the Starr Hill Sand Environmental Works, covers the area from Starr Gate at the boundary of Blackpool to Lytham Green.
Over the last 150 years, much of the sand dunes has been lost and today 80 hectares remains. The funding will continue to improve the standard of protection to nearby properties. In the long term, the sand dunes protect 493 properties from coastal erosion and eight from flooding. There are now approximately an additional 400 new properties which will benefit from the protection of the sand dunes in the future, given recent climate change predictions.
The continuation of the project will maintain the improvement of the designated sand dune habitat following the advice from Natural England.
Work so far has included –
- fencing installed in vulnerable areas
- thatching using donated recycled Christmas trees
- transplanting of Marram and Lyme grass
- removal of invasive non-native species
- implementation of the 2016 Geomorphological Study recommendations
- extensive programme of community and volunteer engagement
- provision of pedestrian access routes aligned away from the prevailing wind direction
This has led to 60-90m cumulative dune growth in places since 2013 and on average about 10m/year with each line of Christmas trees/chestnut paling and marram thatching installed.
The dunes are home to several internationally significant plants, rare invertebrates, and Priority Species birds. Sand lizards, the UK’s rarest lizard, have been successfully reintroduced since 2018 now that habitat conditions are deemed favourable.
Through partnership working, the project has led to a change in beach cleaning practices with no mechanical cleaning at the toe of the dunes. Instead, working with local volunteer Coastal Care groups, weekly litter picking is undertaken manually at the dune toe and in fenced areas. Natural materials are retained and bagged litter is removed by Fylde Council.
Volunteers have been a vital part of the project. They support weekly practical work parties, run guided walks, assist at events, undertake ecological monitoring, contribute to social media, and gain useful practical skills as well as social and mental health benefits from their participation.
Councillor Jane Hugo, Cabinet Member for Climate Change, said: ‘I am delighted funding has been secured to continue this vital work. Much has already been achieved since the scheme began in 2013 and the results are visible for all to see. It is testament to the hard work of all the partners and volunteers that we are able to put such a robust case forward for future funding. We have a strong track record of delivering coastal protection schemes and it is great to see that work continuing along the Fylde Coast.”
Councillor Michael Sayward, Chair of Fylde Council’s Leisure and Tourism Committee, said: ‘I am very proud of the work we’ve achieved together so far. The sand dunes of the Fylde Coast both provide a vital function in their protection of properties and are a source of great pleasure for local residents and visitors alike. This additional funding will help our partnership continue to preserve the natural beauty and vibrant habitat of the Fylde Coast’s sand dunes for years to come.’
Lancashire Wildlife Trust Conservation Office Kim Wisdom further explained: Over the past nine years there has been significant improvement to the structure of the dunes, which protect wildlife and the homes of people living nearby. Only last year, we saw the completion of a joint project to return sand lizards to the dunes. It is brilliant news that we now have funding to continue the work on the dunes creating habitats that allow plants and creatures to add so much life and colour to this hugely important area. This has been made possible by a joined-up approach to management by everyone involved.’
Andrew Shore, the Environment Agency Coastal engineer, added: ‘I am really pleased to see the funding approved for a third term to continue this valuable work for the next five years. Real improvements have been made not only to restore and improve the habitat but also to provide sustainable natural flood risk management since the programme of work began in 2013.’