Formby Beach Car Park at Victoria Road in Freshfield is being moved further inland so that sand dunes along the coast can be restored – and because of erosion fears that is seeing parts of the car park wiped away each year.
Estimates suggest that within the next 25 years, coastal erosion will have made the entire 200–space car park unusable.
The National Trust, which is overseeing the plans, is also concerned over hazardous material underneath the current car park which is increasingly being found on the beach.
The car park was built on rubble from a former army barracks, while the deposits from a former tobacco factory in the area are also often found.
The car park is due to be moved substantially further inland into an area currently covered by woodland, which is closer to the main road – but much further away from the beach.
People would still be able to enjoy access to the popular Formby Beach, while the number of overall car parking spaces would remain the same.
A planning application for the works has been submitted to Sefton Council by Gillespies, on behalf of the National Trust.
In their application, they said: “The National Trust is proposing to restore the natural sand dune habitats at Victoria Road by removing the existing beach car park and associated construction rubble. The majority of the rubble materials would be used to create a replacement car park further inland.
“The replacement car park would provide better laid out, more defined car parking spaces, making parking more efficient and improving traffic flow on and off the site. The number of parking spaces will be maintained in the new car park.
“This conservation work will provide long-lasting benefits for people and wildlife, restoring Formby’s sand dunes to their natural state and making them more dynamic, re-invigorating the natural processes needed to protect and bring new life to the dunes, and re-connecting important sand dune habitats, creating space for wildlife to thrive.”
The National Trust’s vision is to remove the current car park and allow new dunes to link the designated habitats.
Marram grass will colonise these new frontal dunes and, on the back slopes, various dune specialist plants could grow. Rare species, including Natterjack Toads and Sand Lizards, will benefit from the new habitat and the linkages created.
Invertebrates, such as the “RedList” Northern Dune Tiger Beetle, will thrive in this habitat. Removing the car park will also benefit visitors as unsightly hazardous material will not continue to spill onto the beach.
The new car park would be set back in wooded dunes, outside of coastal change.
The scheme allows the National Trust to create a larger area of traffic free site without the current unsafe mix of cars, pedestrians and cyclists.
They said: “Coastal erosion on the northern side of Formby Point has exposed a significant quantity of demolition rubble which is visible on the beach and is a safety hazard. This was deposited mainly during the early 1960s following the demolition of the former Harington Barracks in Formby.
“The rubble was deposited on an area of abandoned asparagus fields south of a track leading to the former Pinetree Farm / Pinetree Café at the seaward end of the Victoria Road extension. . Following deposition, the surface of the rubble was levelled and covered by crushed tarmac, imported gravel and sand to form an informal car parking area.
“Whilst the primary motivation for the work is conservation and habitat creation, it is also relevant to note that, in addition to the safety risks, approximately eight car parking spaces will be lost each year through erosion. Within 25 years the 200-space car park will not be viable.”
Coastal sand dune habitats are a sanctuary for special plants, insects, birds, reptiles and amphibians; the Sefton Coast is home to 40% of the UK’s population of rare natterjack toads, which breed in the dune pools also known as wet slacks. Sand dunes need to be free to move. This movement creates the habitats rare species such as natterjack toads and sand lizards need to thrive. Areas of naturally shifting, mobile sand are essential, but some of Formby’s sand dunes have become too stable and disconnected.
As part of the Dynamic Dunescapes UK wide project the National Trust will be giving nature a helping hand to restore rare dune habitats and bring new life to Formby’s sand dunes. The vision is to create space for sand to move more freely, which will restore natural processes and create healthier habitats for many important and rare species.
The dune restoration works will maintain vehicle and pedestrian access to the beach, with a route similar to the existing route