Opportunities for our coastline

The Council has announced in a report to the Public Engagement and Consultation Panel on 26th November 2018 that it has started to review options for the replacement/improvement of defences at the northern end of Crosby Coastal Park.

This involves reviewing the condition of the current defences, identifying possible options for addressing this and identifying preferred options.

In June 2018, and without any significant publicity, the Council appointed consultants at a cost of £48,000 to help develop a business case related to Crosby’s Coastal Defences. In the same month the Labour Cabinet approved a budget of £1m from the Sea Wall Reserve as the first phase of expenditure, which could cost between £15m and £20m by 2022 to replace the sea defences.

The Council has reported that they are planning to stockpile some 500 tonnes of rock on site in case it is required for emergency works. They’ve not disclosed in their report the nature of these emergency works but there must be some worries within Cabinet that the coast is at risk.

Not surprisingly, the Council admits that they are already receiving requests from residents and Councillors who would like to know what is going on.

The fact that local Councillors are not being kept informed is particularly worrying but hardly surprising. Everything that happens in Sefton is determined by the Bootle-based Cabinet comprising the Leader of the Council and six other Labour Councillors appointed by the Leader.

The Council intends to consult in May 2019 on the options which residents would like to see for the protection of our seafront – almost 12 months after the consultants were appointed.

Why is this consultation important?

Firstly, the Council is legally required to produce a strategy setting out how it will manage flooding and coastal erosion. Sefton Council produced a “Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy 2015 – 2018” but this strategy is now out-of date.

The strategy confirmed that of the 120,000 homes in the borough, 72,000 are at risk of external flooding to their gardens and roads once every 100 years. The Council produced maps showing areas of risk, yet still allows new housing to be built on areas known to be at risk.

Since 2012 the Government allocated grants through the Coastal Communities Fund to help deliver sustainable growth and jobs. This year’s fund allocated £40m to authorities who wished to bid. Compared with other coastal authorities, Sefton have been dragging their feet and have concentrated solely on Southport. The Council obtained £2.7m to repair Southport Pier but the needs and opportunities of our Waterloo and Crosby coastline were ignored.

Our local coastline is internationally renowned but this Council’s investment has been negligible. Even the Iron Men were provided by grants to the Council from the Mersey Waterfront Programme, the Arts Council and Northwest Development Agency.

Instead of proper tourism facilities such as a café we get a mobile burger bar and ice cream van. The public toilets are a disgrace and there’s no interpretation centre or souvenir shop. The Councillors should get out of the Town Hall and look at how other imaginative authorities are improving and protecting their coastlines – a trip to Wirral, Morecambe and Colwyn Bay perhaps?

This Council’s ideas of community consultation are laughable. Just look at Crosby Village. The public clearly stated what was needed and were ignored.

When the consultation does eventually take place perhaps this time the Council will genuinely listen to the community’s ideas and that we can see investment in sustainable and exciting facilities on our seafront, rather than another 500 tonnes of rubble.