Agenda item

Public Questions

Notice of question to be given in writing or by email by 12 noon, 24 January 2024 to the Council’s Monitoring Officer via this link: Public Question Form and to be dealt with in accordance with Standing Order 10.


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Please telephone the Committee Services Officer if you have not received an acknowledgement of your question by the deadline for submission.



The Chair reported that 5 public questions had been received in advance of the meeting.


Paul Carr asked a question regarding the environmental benefits of plant-based diets in comparison to the impacts of meat and dairy production. Mr Carr asked if Wirral Council could follow several UK Councils in endorsing the Plant Based treaty which called for a global treaty to address food emissions alongside local implementation of plant-based initiatives in catering, training and public awareness campaigns.


In response, the Chair stated that they personally would like to see the Council endorse the plant-based treaty. The Chair also reported that Wirral Council, as a partner of Cool Wirral, were engaging the public on various issues to reduce carbon emissions, including advice on how to reduce the carbon footprint of food. It was noted that engagement events in food growing and composting were being advertised for residents. In addition, it was reported that the Council produced sustainable event guidance to encourage plant-based options for partners using Council facilities and that the Climate Emergency team would explore further what the Plant Based Treaty entailed.


Charlotte Smith asked a question regarding comments made by the Chair when asking a public question at Policy & Resources Committee in December 2023, whereby the Chair described land at Arrowe Park Road as a valued amentiy space. Ms Smith asked if the Chair agreed that the residents of Hoylake considered Hoylake beach a much loved amenity space and if she would support the restoration of an amenity beach between King’s Gap and New Lifeboat Station. Ms Smith highlighted public health and safety risks, operational safety concerns of the local RNLI and concerns over breaching the Equality Act 2010.


In response, the Chair agreed that Hoylake beach was a much loved community space and that the Council’s extensive consultation highlighted that residents understood amenity value in different ways with a number of different views on future beach management options. The Chair stated that the Council had not breached the Equality Act or put the operational safety of the RNLI at risk.


Charlotte Smith asked a supplementary question relating to health and safety concerns on the beach and whether a risk assessment had been considered in relation to the condition of the beach.


In response the Chair affirmed that a risk assessment was undertaken when the decision was made to stop raking the beach and that risk assessments would be undertaken for any future beach management options.


Wendy Bennett asked, since the decision to stop clearing Hoylake beach in 2019, how much the Council had spent on all matters relevant to the beach, including sand removal, legal and professional advice, public consultation and administration costs including the costs of any dedicated teams working on the future management options for the beach.

In response, the Chair indicated that an answer to that question would require some time to collate the relevant information and that a written response would be provided.


The Head of Legal Services read out a question on behalf of Frank McArdle which related to previous mass gatherings on Hoylake beach and asked that the rules and regulations for mass gatherings on the beach to adhere to Council and Natural England requirements could be clarified.


In response, the Chair set out the requirements for members of the public and organisations wishing to organise events on Council land. It was reported that event organisers are asked to submit a ‘notification of event form’ through the Council’s website and provide a written plan for the event, evidence of public liability insurance and a risk assessment. In relation to events on Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI’s) on Council land, it was noted that organisers were required to apply well in advance as the process of seeking assent, if required, could be costly and time consuming. If the event required a Habitats Risk Assessment (HRA), it was reported that the Council would work with organisers to agree payment for the assessment and likely timescales, and once complete would be shared with Natural England for their assent.


The Head of Legal Services read out a question on behalf of Keith Randles relating to the 2016 Council beach management plan, whereby Natural England recommended a 2-rake operation to remove vegetation from Hoylake beach. Mr Randles asked whether the then cabinet member was aware that a chemical free option was available to the Council to continue with their obligation for maintaining Hoylake beach and if so why it was not adopted.


In response, the Chair clarified that there was not any legal obligation for the Council to maintain the beach in order to remove vegetation and that if the Council was to maintain the beach in such a way it must gain assent from Natural England as the beach falls within North Wirral Foreshore SSSI and would therefore subject to protections under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. The Chair clarified that the methods put forward to Natural England in 2016 for assent included both raking and spraying, and that both methods were undertaken until 2019. Glyphosate spraying ceased in 2019 whilst raking took place until concerns over driver and public safety led to it being halted later in 2019, whilst assent expired in March 2021.  The Chair also clarified that beaches were not in their portfolio as Cabinet Member when they were last raked and sprayed.