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Threatened sand dunes given new lease of LIFE

Sand dunes across England are set for a golden future following £4.3 million worth of funding to help restore and protect these at risk habitats.

Following an application submitted by the Natural England to LIFE (the Financial Instrument for the Environment), a significant amount of funding has been awarded to help restore and protect sand dunes across England. National Trust Formby is one of the partners working with Natural England to help deliver this major conservation project.

The funding awarded to a partnership led by Natural England as part of the European Union’s LIFE programme will help deliver a major conservation project to explore how to re-establish the natural movement within dunes and create the conditions that some of our rarest wildlife relies upon.

Healthy sand dunes with moving sand are a sanctuary for endangered plants and animals like the natterjack toad, dune gentian and sand lizard. However these habitats are currently being smothered and fixed by a tide of invasive non-native plants turning it into scrubland. Sand dunes are now one of the most at risk habitats in Europe. Only 20,000 hectares remain across England and Wales – an area around half the size of the Isle of Wight.

The DuneLIFE project will help Natural England improve the condition of key sand dune sites in Lincolnshire, Dorset, Cornwall, Devon, Merseyside and Cumbria by tackling the root causes of decline. The scheme will:

· Deliver a programme of removal of invasive species to rebalance the natural processes of dune colonisation

· Restore sand dunes and dune slacks

· Create bare sand patches by turf stripping and sand scraping

· Encourage more people to access and enjoy dunes and take part in their conservation

Natural England are working in partnership with Plantlife, National Trust and the Wildlife Trusts to deliver this ambitious and innovative project.

Chairman of Natural England, Andrew Sells, said:

“This is a wonderful project to help save our sand dunes and promote a better understanding of this fascinating landscape.

“Sand dunes are a familiar backdrop to a day at the beach, but few people realise the serious threat they face across Europe. I am delighted that we have this exciting opportunity to work with our partners to safeguard these wildlife-rich habitats for future generations.”

Andrew Brockbank, Countryside Manager at the National Trust Formby, said:

“Our aim at Formby is to continue to look after this special place, working with the natural processes of coastal change within this continually evolving and shifting environment. We look forward to sharing updates as we work up the detail of our plans in the next few months.”

This successful LIFE bid marks an important step towards a larger programme of sand dune conservation work around the coast of England and Wales which has already gained initial support* for over £4milllion of National Lottery funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Natural England are working in partnership with Natural Resources Wales, Plantlife, National Trust, and The Wildlife Trusts, to deliver this ambitious project.

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