As national restrictions on the numbers of people allowed to meet up outdoors are eased, the Sefton Coast Landscape Partnership is urging anyone planning a visit to take a cautious and considerate approach.
Partnership members, which include Sefton Council, Merseyside Police, Merseyside Fire and Rescue, British Transport Police, National Trust Formby, Natural England, the RNLI and others want to ensure the safety of visitors and residents. As school holidays begin and we head towards the Easter weekend, they are asking people to ‘stay local’.
Margaret Jones, Sefton Council’s Director of Public Health, said:
“These are the very early steps out of lockdown but the message for all of us is still clear.
“While the relaxation of measures allows us to enjoy some outdoor socialising, it’s not an open invitation for us all to return to the coast, particularly if we don’t live locally. Travel must still be minimised, and people are being advised not to travel at busy times, so for some a trip to the coast may need to wait for the further easing of restrictions.
“It’s vital that we all continue do everything we can to allow the gradual lifting of restrictions to continue.
“That means getting vaccinated when we’re offered it, getting tested if we have symptoms and self-isolating when needed. Sticking to the basics of hands, face and space – even when meeting with others in outdoor spaces – remain vital. Social distancing and advice to minimise travel are there to protect ourselves, or families and our friends.
“We all want to be able to enjoy being outdoors again, but we are asking people to be considerate to local residents and to each other.”
Mark Shaw, Sefton Council’s Green Sefton Service Manager, said:
“The continued restrictions around Coronavirus have amplified the issues our Borough often experiences at coastal locations on busy weekends and Bank Holidays. We are welcoming people back cautiously, with the Green Sefton team ready for the spring and summer season, but we are still relying on people taking personal responsibility when they spend time at the coast.
“There is no single solution to many of the issues we face but we’re joining forces with our partners once more to implement measures to deal with issues such as littering and irresponsible parking. But we also need people to think sensibly about whether they need to come to the coast yet while restrictions gradually ease through the Government’s roadmap.
“What’s more, the Sefton coast is an internationally protected beautiful nature reserve and we would ask that people treat it with the respect it deserves.”
Last year, Sefton Council drew up a Coastal Visitor Action Plan, which will be reinstated again this year. The plan is there to ensure Sefton’s coastline is safe for residents, visitors and the Council’s own staff. Another planned measure is the continuation and extension of Beachsafe.
Sefton Community Police Superintendent Graeme Robson said:
“We will continue to work closely alongside our partners to deal with any issues on Sefton’s coastlines and help ensure those who live locally are able to enjoy the outdoors safely.
“Coronavirus still poses a threat to public health, and the last thing we want now is to move backwards or face an increase in infections which restricts us further.
“I would urge everyone to plan any visits carefully and give their attention when parking – anyone found to be parking illegally or without consideration for residents will also be dealt with by our patrols, in partnership with the Local Authority. Anyone acting antisocially should expect to be dealt with by police in a robust manner.
“If everyone follows the rules now, we’ll see restrictions eased further as we move into spring and summer, so it’s particularly important everyone shows consideration both to each other and to the residents who live on the coast.
“Throughout the year and especially at popular times, officers will be on foot, in vehicles and on quad bikes across the Sefton coastline including Formby, Ainsdale and Crosby beaches, as well as parks and beauty spots including Formby nature reserve.”
Station Manager at Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service Joe Cunliffe said:
“We appreciate that the public want to have fun and enjoy the Sefton coastline this Easter, particularly in these challenging times, however we would urge visitors to follow the government guidelines and stay local.
“Our priority must be the safety of visitors, staff and the local community. By following clear guidance, we can avoid creating fire risks and increasing demand on our emergency services during this global pandemic.
“We would like to remind people that during periods of hot and dry weather, the risk of fires in public areas increase. Though some fires are accidental, unfortunately, most are anti-social behaviour fires that are deliberately started, which is arson.
“Please ensure that if you are visiting the Sefton coastline, do so safely, disposable BBQs and campfires are NOT allowed anywhere on the Sefton Coast, the dunes, or the woods. Please take your rubbish home with you, don’t drop cigarettes or leave bottles on the ground.
“If you see fire, report it immediately by calling 999, asking for the Fire Service and giving as much detail as possible including the nearest main road – this will help crews mobilise and fight fires as quick as possible, without delay.
“By parking responsibly and giving our fire engines room can help crews reach an incident without delay or complication, minimising loss of life and risk of further damage to the environment and wildlife habitats.
“Alongside the RNLI, our Marine Rescue Unit have received an increased number of call outs to people getting stuck in the mud and becoming cut off by the tide. A beach or coastal area may appear a safe place for a walk, but incoming tide can quickly leave you stranded. We would urge the public to think carefully before setting off on a coastal walk and please stick to proper pathways, staying clear of the water’s edge. If you’ve had alcohol or drugs do not enter the water and avoid walking alone, avoiding routes near water.
“If you see a person or animal in distress, do not enter the water to try to help – always call 999, keep a clear visual on those in need of assistance and use any water rescue equipment if it is available.”
Vicky Blane, General Manager National Trust Formby, said:
“We know people love visiting Formby and understand why many would like to visit this special place over the Easter holidays. However, this year we’re urging visitors to follow government guidelines and stay local. The safety of our visitors, staff and local community remains our priority.
“For local visitors we suggest parking at Lifeboat Road during busier times as there is more space to manoeuvre. Visitors can also help protect Formby’s precious wildlife by taking their litter home and recycling or using the large bins in the car parks.
“Our team are planning ahead for what we know is likely to be a busy summer. There is no quick fix to the challenges of traffic, parking, and crowds on busy days, but we know that collaborating with our Sefton Coast Landscape partners is the right approach to help us find solutions that work for people and nature. Together we can ensure this nature haven is here for everyone to enjoy for ever.”
Chris Cousens, RNLI Water Safety Lead, said:
“RNLI lifeboats around the north west coast are ready to respond to emergency situations and many of our lifeguards will be returning to their posts, but we are urging people to think very carefully about safety and not putting any additional pressure on the RNLI charity during these challenging times.
“We have seen an increased number of call outs to people using the coast for our daily exercise and becoming cut off by the tide. There have been a high number of incidents off the north west coast and we’d urge people to think carefully before setting off on a coastal walk. The tide comes in and out twice in each 24-hour period, and while tide times can be accurately predicted, they vary at each location and change each day. A beach or coastal area may appear a safe place for a walk, but incoming tide can quickly leave you stranded. On bigger tides like we will see in the coming days, places will be cut off by the tide quicker than normal and places usually unaffected by the tide may also be cut off.”
Natural England, who manage the Ainsdale Sand Dunes National Nature Reserve, has this week launched a refreshed Countryside Code reminding people to respect, protect and enjoy the outdoors as more visitors are expected to spend time outside this spring and summer.
Dave Mercer, Senior Reserve Manager, Ainsdale Sand Dunes National Nature Reserve said: “Over the coming months we expect visitor numbers to our National Nature Reserves across Merseyside to increase and we ask that everyone visiting to respect the newly refreshed Countryside Code.
“Sadly in the past, a small number of people haven’t respected the code by parking anti-socially, starting wildfires, littering our beauty spots, dogs being off leads and cyclists endangering walkers. The Countryside Code refresh is a great reminder for how everyone can enjoy and respect our National Nature Reserves all year round.”
A range of measures put into place last year by Sefton Council have been reviewed and plans for the spring and summer season 2021 include:
- Re-opening both Ainsdale and Southport beach car parks from the Easter weekend, and across the summer until the end of September – to ease parking complaints in residential areas and to maximise the number of parking spaces
- The implementation of a cashless payment system at beach car parks to provide quick, easy and safe access
- The opening of the overflow car park at Cambridge Road, Crosby at peak times such as weekends, Bank Holidays and school holidays
- Variable traffic signs will be used to direct vehicles to locations where parking is available and away from areas that are full – like Formby which often reaches capacity
- Enforcement for illegal and inconsiderate parking will be targeted at the areas where concerns persist – access for emergency vehicles is also essential
- Additional Green Sefton Rangers have been recruited for 2021 and will assist with car park management, beach cleaning and providing assistance to visitors
- Portable loos are to be located at Crosby and Ainsdale beaches once again
- Skips will again be used at coastal locations to ensure litter can be disposed of, but visitors will be reminded to take their rubbish home with them
- Rangers will frequently empty litter bins but also encourage visitors to take their litter home in free rubbish sacks provided for them during peak periods
- Volunteer ‘beach ambassadors’ will be on hand at peak times to educate visitors on the special nature of the Sefton coastline, and asking that they respect it when they come
People can follow the Sefton Coast Landscape Partnership agencies Twitter accounts for more advice, news and videos: @SeftonCouncil @MerseyFire @MerseyPolice @RNLI @BTPMersey @NaturalEngland @NTFormby
The continued work of the partnership will also be communicated to visitors, to local residents, businesses and employees of the Council and its partners through the Council’s My Sefton website, Sefton Council’s Facebook page and on Instagram @Sefton_Council.