The Sefton Coast is a very special place for nature and one of the most important nature sites in Great Britain. Over 20% of England’s sand dunes and 40% of its dune slacks form large parts of the Sefton Coast. Together the dunes, sand flats and salt marshes provide homes for over 3,500 invertebrates – 33 are very rare making the Sefton Coast the most important area in northwest England. A similar story unfolds for the plants, where the Sefton Coast hosts 37% of all the rare plants in northwest England. The Sefton coast is also home to the rare special animals natterjack toad and sand lizard. The sand flats and estuaries provide safe refuge for over 350,000 birds from the Arctic each autumn, winter and spring.
Managing and working in this unique place requires special measures. When designing and implementing the Hightown Dunes Restoration Scheme finding a way to deliver a £1.5 million coast protection scheme that also provided benefits to wildlife was a huge challenge. Technical challenges included: finding a window when work could be done that respected and protected the unique plants and animals; having to work in a number of European and national designated nature sites; how to move up to 30,000m3 sand from one part of the Sefton coast to another to use natural coastal processes of accretion and erosion; and how to work with the legislation. A standardised, single construction solution could not be used and a bespoke scheme was devised. All planning and nature conservation protection requirements were followed. The scheme has delivered protection to Hightown and its residents and created additional sand dune habitats that have been rapidly colonised by the special plants and animals.