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Muted by Wirral Borough Council again…? You decide.

Local residents and supporters of Hoylake Beach Community's compromise campaign wrote to WBC’s Environment Climate Change & Transport Committee as per their guidelines to ask public questions at the meeting this evening. (Monday 15th November).

All 5 questions were rejected. Each rejection reply was sent on Friday, the last working day before the meeting and between the hours of 16:00 - 17:00. Therefore not allowing the opportunity for discussion or a chance to redraft.


All 5 questions received the same ‘copy & paste’ reply below.

“I am sorry to inform you that your public question for Environment, Climate Emergency and Transport Committee has not been accepted. Unfortunately, your question is substantially the same as previous questions which have been brought to Committee within the last six months, and as a result cannot be accepted.


Apologies for any inconvenience,

Joseph D’Henin

Graduate Democratic Services Officer

Law and Governance

Wirral Council”



At the meeting this evening, Cllr Simon Mountney asked why were all the public questions rejected and Cllr. Liz Grey says "I’ll step in first, each of the questions has received a full answer on that outlining exactly why their question was rejected”.


REALLY Cllr. Grey?!! Is the copy & paste reply to 5 individuals a ‘full answer”?

She should at least reference to which prior question each of them are substantially the same as. And, IF already answered, then provide it on the rejection reply.


Watch here - fast forward to 5 minutes.


After speaking to our supporters, these questions have not been asked previously.


This is not the first time we’ve been censored. Readers will recall, at the last full WBC meeting, four out of five public questions were answered with “a written response will be sent” - CLICK HERE to watch and skip to minute 27. You can read our previous blog about this here


So we ask, is this democracy? Why is Cllr. Grey not answering tax payers questions? Is this right or fair?


Read all the questions below. They are excellent and I hope we will receive a reply!


1. Submitted 10 November and declined at 16.58 Friday12th November.


Major issue of breeding mosquitoes in the Dee Estuary

Question) Is the Committee aware of the recent report of January, 2021 by Liverpool University Institute of Infection, Veterinary and Ecological Sciences highlighting the major issue of breeding mosquitoes in the Dee Estuary and the biting nuisance caused? These mosquitoes breed in pools on the spartina grass which has formed marsh land and cause serious biting nuisance in the Spring and Summer. The biting nuisance is such that a traffic light system has had to be put in place in Parkgate and Neston to warn residents to keep windows shut and be alert to biting.

The report also indicates that although the Dee estuary mosquitoes, known as Aedes detritus, do not currently spread disease, and their presence is limited to their biting nuisance, there is the potential for local mosquitoes to act as arborvirus vectors which may lead to tropical diseases being introduced and spreading in the UK eg Dengue Fever.

One of the Professors who co-authored this report has voluntarily visited Hoylake Beach recently and he reports that as of October, 2021 there were no Aedes detritus larva present that he could detect, but that “assuming there will be a gradual accumulation of vegetation (as is occurring already) and an increase in height of the “beach” until the stage is reached when it is only covered by the highest tides, pools can form and there will then be the ideal conditions for breeding of the salt marsh mosquito, Aedes detritus. I don’t know how long this will take.” He has told me that he considers that this requires more research.

Question) Has the Council properly investigated the potential health threat of mosquito nuisance relating to the spartina and other grasses now being allowed by the Council to grow at Hoylake Beach? If the conditions do worsen, then the potential impact of mosquito colonisation will, as has happened at Parkgate, have a major impact not only on residents living on or near the promenade, but throughout Hoylake and, as has been shown in the recent study, up to 8 miles inland causing severe biting nuisance and potentially, with climate change, the threat of serious tropical diseases. In view of this, have you, in making your decision to halt raking, taken this issue into consideration and can you assure the residents of Wirral that you will remove the grasses as soon as possible, on Health grounds?

_____________________________________________________________


2. Submitted 09 November and declined at 15.56 Friday 12th November


Hoylake and West Kirby Beach - Risk and Impact Assessment

There are significant public health risk concerns with the vegetation growing on both Hoylake and West Kirby beach and the impact also from the overflow from the drains leaking onto Hoylake beach. The weekend of the 6th and 7th November, saw high tides which left in their wake significant issues for the beach. The drain onto the beach at the bottom of Clydesdale Road is blocked by wood and plastic due to the height of the sand and the vegetation is now trapping debris brought in by the tide. The pools of stagnant water within and amongst the vegetation are a risk to the public and any dogs walking on the beach.


Cllr Grey spoke to ‘Earth Moves’ and stated that all the action taken by Wirral Council is ‘risk assessed’ for ‘environmental impact’. Please may I respectfully request the location and sight of the risk and impact assessments undertaken by Wirral Council around the public health impact of the decision to allow the vegetation to grow on the beach? Please can these be published for the public of the Wirral’s attention due to increasing concerns. They do not appear on the portal set up for the issues on the beach. The committee established to undergo the survey of Hoylake comprises of individuals who in the majority have environmental expertise, there are no public health experts included on the committee.


Question: What date can Wirral residents expect to see a risk and impact assessment which assesses the concerns and risk to public health plus the addition of a public health expert to the committee? I am certain that the council do not want an appeal to their final decision around the future of Hoylake and West Kirby beach, it is therefore important to include independent individuals with expertise in the environment, public health and risk.


_____________________________________________________________

3. Submitted 09 November and declined 16.00 Friday 12th November

On the 7th of September I attended in person this same committee meeting and read out my public question regarding Hoylake Beach and the implications of leaving Spartina growing unchecked along the Northern Wirral Coastline.

At that meeting the chair refused to answer my question personally, but directed myself along with other selected public questions on the night to the Hoylake Beach “have your say” where she claims I would find my and their answers there.

On the 9th of October I personally emailed Councillor Grey to ask her the reason why she did not answer my question at that meeting, rather hoping she might have taken this opportunity to answer it, but no.

In her reply, I was once again redirected to the same Hoylake Beach quoting “specialist officers dealing with the beach answer questions that cannot be answered from the Have Your Say portal and they can be contacted via:hoylakebeach@wirral.gov.uk “They will definitely get back to you”

So, on the 10th of October I did exactly that, I took the chairs advice and emailed those officers with my question, on which I got a auto response

“Thank you for your email regarding Hoylake Beach. Your email has been received and once logged you will receive a reply within 15 days”

True to form, no reply has been received to date.

So, in fairness I have tried to get my question answered and now due to it not being dealt with on several levels, I would like to re-submit my question once again to this committee tonight.


My question is: "What considerations were made by the Cabinet Member for Environment two years ago, the environment committee since, and have officers produced advice on the implications of letting Spartina spread unchecked with the possibility of Spartina spreading along the entire northern Wirral coastline and the likely impact it might have on the established wildlife of this coastline?


_____________________________________________________________

4. Submitted 09 November and declined at 17.00, Friday 12th November

I understand it is the Councils stance that no beach maintenance plan can be put to Natural England relating to Hoylake beach till after a study and consultation have been completed. This will leave the Hoylake community without access to a sandy beach and community events such as the tug of war, lifeboat day and the annual firework display for at least another 12 or 18 months. This is having a significant impact on the community. I also understand that it is possible to apply for a S28H notice to allow specific activities on a protected site and that wirral council has applied and paid for such a notice for the sandyachters. Is there any reason why such an application could not be made to allow the beach area between the sailing club and lifeboat Station to be raked and to allow these community events to take place while studies are continuing - thus maintaining at least an element of the previous status quo - without impacting the conclusions of the studies.

_____________________________________________________________

5. 10 November and declined at 16.59 Friday 12th November


On 03 December 2020, during the Environment, Climate Emergency and Transport meeting to determine the long term strategy for Hoylake beach, in Nicola Butterworth’s Hoylake Beach Management Report, point 3.2 refers to ‘public concern regarding the use of Glyphosate being one of the reasons cited for the early cessation of the beach maintenance.

Between 07-09 August 2019, Wirral Council mistakenly sprayed the whole of Hoylake beach with Glyphosate, this huge error directly lead to concerns from residents and also caused the huge media frenzy.

Natural England’s assent under the Beach Management Plan at that time, had allowed for ‘spot spraying’ treatment of Spartina and Pucinella, combined with seasonal raking. This minimal annual spot treatment had successfully kept the highly invasive Spartina under control, and *protecting the feeding and roosting grounds for Hoylake bird life required under the SSSI.

Question: In consideration of the fact that the beach has been under SSSI since 1986, and the fact that ‘public concern’ was cited within the declared reasoning to cease beach management, did Wirral Council admit their above mentioned mistake and apologise to Hoylake residents, and more importantly did Wirral Council declare their blunder to Natural England, given the fact this mistake in treatment had in fact been the contributory factor to the media frenzy and resulting public concerns (as cited as a contributory reason for the cessation decision)?

Supplementary Question: On the assumption a serious error of this nature ( treating the whole beach rather than spot spraying) was declared to Natural England, please advise what action Natural England took, and whether there were any fine or penalty implications to Wirral Council, because of this error including any directive for post impact assessment of the beach?

Supplementary Information:

  • Please see attached leaflet produced by the RSPB 100% for Nature project which deals with the significant threat to feeding and roosting grounds caused by Spartina. They have a team of Spartina surveyors to deal with this issue. https://scotlandsnature.blog/tag/invasive-non-native-species/

  • This is in direct conflict with the information being cited by the RSPB in Wirral Council communications.



HOW YOU CAN HELP...


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https://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/mgMemberIndex.aspx...

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