A HALF-a-million pound project to restore the dunes along the Fylde coast will begin in March thanks to new funding.
Fylde Council has already been awarded £220,000 from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), to improve the dunes as a flood defence and protect them from coastal erosion.
With another Defra funding boost in the pipeline, and an additional grant from Fylde Council, the money will exceed £500,000 to also help improve the dunes as a natural habitat.
Fylde’s sand dune project officer Lynn Ashton explained the restoration was a five-year project.
She said: “To get this money is fantastic news. We have 80 hectares of valuable sand dune left on the Fylde Coast. Of that, 24 hectares is classified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
“Basically, this is an initiative to improve the uninhabitable land.”
Lynn said the project involve a lot of volunteer work to help remove the dunes of native ‘invasive species’, like white poplar, red Japanese rose and spiky sea buckthorn which are taking over the dunes and out-compete the natural vegetation.
She added the dunes were actually building themselves up, rather than eroding as they were in Southport, and that was something the Defra grant would help to encourage as part of the sea defence.
The money will also secure a dunes officer from the Lancashire Wildlife Trust for the five-year project, fund a dune-widening programme along the coast and pay for contractors to remove the shrubbery and mow the spring and summer meadows.
Lynne said: “There will be lots of opportunities for volunteers to get involved over the next five years.
“We will be having guided walks, litter picks and vegetation planting.”
Coun Tommy Threlfall, Fylde Council cabinet member for environment, said: “Nature is obviously important along with tourism and we know how much visitors like the dunes.
“But what is equally important is defence against windblown sand and also against flooding.
“Dunes are a ‘soft sea defence’ and any rise in sea level – or lowering of the beach, which could happen if the offshore ebb channel moves – could expose nearby houses and gardens to a flood and erosion risk.
“This project should offer a win-win situation for residents and for tourists. Nearby residents will have less exposure to flood risk and blown sand while everyone else will be able to enjoy the dunes as they should always have remained.”
Lynn added: “To get this money is fantastic news. It’s obvious the dunes are a very special habitat, and they represent one per cent of the dunes in the whole of the UK. We have to ensure we are protecting that habitat and improving it for the long term.
“We are not sure how long the dunes are going to built up for – whether they will continue growing, or stop and start eroding. What this project is doing is ensuring they are there for the future generation.”