Statement from National Trust about Freshfield Caravan Park and dune movement at Formby
Formby is part of one of the fastest-moving coastlines in the UK. The sand dunes at Formby, and elsewhere on the Sefton Coast, are constantly shifting, in a natural process that has taken place for many thousands of years. This kind of dynamic sand dune system is rare and is home to at-risk wildlife like sand lizards and natterjack toads. This is all part of what makes Formby so special.
Over time, natural dune movement can significantly alter the landscape at Formby, as well as making access to some areas of the site a challenge – this is the issue we’re facing at Freshfield Caravan Park which is located near the Victoria Road entrance. We aim to work with nature and natural processes to manage the coastline. We know that fighting against our naturally shifting shores does not work in the long term. We’re finding ways to adapt so that we can make places like Formby more sustainable for the benefit of people, and wildlife, for years to come.
What is Freshfield Caravan Park?
Freshfield Caravan Park is a holiday caravan site on the coast at Formby, near Liverpool and is operated by Freshfield Caravan Park Ltd. The site is on land owned by the National Trust near the Victoria Road entrance at Formby – Freshfield Caravan Park Ltd are tenants of the National Trust. Sixty static caravans are currently on the site which are all owned by individuals and used during the spring and summer months.
What’s happening at the caravan park?
Due to natural sand dune movement, Freshfield Caravan Park at Formby is currently inaccessible. The dunes around the caravan park and its access road have been shifting and moving closer to the caravan park for many years. This movement accelerated at the start of 2022 due to stormy weather, causing the dunes to block the access road into the caravan park.
Can the dunes be cleared from the road?
The access road is part of the protected Sefton Coast Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Area of Conservation (SAC), meaning that we, and our tenants, need legal consent from Natural England to clear the sand dunes. Our most recent application for consent to clear sand from the access road was submitted in early 2022. Based on sound conservation principles, Natural England made the decision not to approve our application and as a result, it is no longer legally permitted for anyone to undertake any activity that may impact the sand dunes.
Can a new access road to the caravan park be created?
This is something we have given serious consideration to with advice from planning advisors, dune ecology experts and other consultants. However, we have concluded that this is not a viable solution. The chances of getting planning permission are very low, and both the National Trust and Directors of Freshfield Caravan Park have agreed that the likely cost and time involved in developing a scheme would be excessive. Creating a new access road would also be a short-term fix as we cannot say with certainty how long it will be before the caravan park itself is covered by the sand dunes.
Could the caravan park be moved elsewhere?
In the 1980s Freshfield Caravan Park was moved from its original site, which sat further west (towards the beach) than its current location. This move was due to similar challenges with dune movement that we’re seeing today. Due to the special environmental designations at Formby, and the nature of the constantly shifting dunes, there isn’t a suitable alternative site on National Trust land where a new caravan park could be built.
Is the work happening with machinery near the woodlands at Victoria Road impacting the dunes?
Conservation work has been taking place over the winter in and around the woodlands by the Victoria Road car park. This work is part of our updated 10 year woodland management plan and has been approved and permitted by The Forestry Commission and Natural England. Some of the footpaths have been temporarily impacted by heavy machinery. These footpaths are not in or part of the dunes, the disturbance is temporary, and we will be carrying out work to repair any areas that have been significantly impacted by this work.
Is there a solution?
This is a complex situation, and there is no simple solution. We are in discussion with the Directors of Freshfield Caravan Park Ltd about the future of the site and have been for some time. We cannot say with certainty what will happen in the long term. Our discussions with the Directors of the caravan park are ongoing, and we have not yet reached a conclusion. We appreciate how frustrating and upsetting this must be for people with caravans on the site and we’re committed to keeping them updated as much as we are able to. We’d encourage anyone with a caravan at Freshfield Caravan Park who has questions to get in touch with us firstname.lastname@example.org, or to speak to the Directors of FCP Ltd directly.
What is the Victoria Road conservation project?
Dune movement has been happening at Formby for thousands of years and if you visit our Victoria Road site, you’ll see the impact it’s having. The dune movement here is the reason we’re embarking on a complex conservation project at Victoria Road. We’ve submitted a planning application for this project which is being reviewed by the local planning authority. The project is separate to the conversations around the future of the caravan park.
The proposals for the Victoria Road project focus on:·
Removing the unsightly and potentially hazardous rubble that is appearing on the beach as dunes roll back. This rubble was once the former Harington Barracks, used as the foundation layer of the previous beach car park which has since been lost to nature.·
Restoring the sand dunes as a habitat for Formby’s at-risk wildlife, like sand lizards and natterjack toads.·
Relocating the Victoria Road visitor car park to a site about 400 metres in-land from its current location, away from the dunes.
You can find out more about projects at Formby here.
Could a new access road be included in the Victoria Road conservation project?
From a design point of view, adding in an access road to the caravan park would bring significant issues. We’re proposing to use the rubble from the old visitor car park to create a replacement car park further in land. The rubble will raise the new car park to the level of Victoria Road, and as a result it will sit much higher than the surrounding land. This means that creating a track from the new car park to the back of the caravan park would be difficult due to the final topography of the landscape.
The chances of getting planning permission to create a new access road are very low and both the National Trust and Directors of Freshfield Caravan Park have agreed that the likely cost and time involved in developing a scheme would be excessive. Creating a new access road would also be a short-term fix as we cannot say with certainty how long it will be before the caravan park itself is covered by the sand dunes.