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.
Freshfield Caravan Park is a holiday caravan site on the coast near to the Victoria Road beach car park at National Trust in Formby, Liverpool. The caravan site is on land owned by the National Trust. The business is owned by our tenants Freshfield Caravan Park Ltd. The site is operated and managed by the Directors of Freshfield Caravan Park Ltd. Sixty static caravans are currently on the site which are all owned by individuals and used from March to October.
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 end of 2021 and start of 2022 due to stormy weather, causing the dunes to block the access road into the caravan park.
Since then the large, mobile sand dunes have continued to naturally roll back and there is now tonnes of sand, piled up high, where the access road used to be - as shown in the image below.
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 the natural changes that have happened to the landscape and sound conservation principles, Natural England made the decision not to approve our application and as a result, it is no longer legally permitted to clear or move sand from the access road.
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.
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.
We‘re currently carrying out small scale maintenance work to popular, permitted footpaths in the Lifeboat Road area, away from the mobile frontal dunes. This includes moving small amounts of wind blown sand, to the side of the paths.
This is a complex situation, and there is no simple solution. Without the consent from Natural England to clear the access road, or an alternative location for the caravan park to be moved to at National Trust Formby, it is our belief that there is no other option but to close the site. However, our discussions with the Directors and representatives of the caravan park about the future of the site are ongoing, and we have not yet reached a conclusion. We are also continuing to work closely with the emergency services, Natural England and Sefton Council around all operations on site, including access routes.
Temporary arrangements are currently in place to allow caravan owners access to the site on foot. While there is limited access for emergency vehicles, due to the sand dune movement continuing to block the road, we’ve highlighted the associated risks to people staying on site to the Directors of Freshfield Caravan Park, who are ultimately responsible for their visitors. It’s important that anyone accessing the site is aware of the potential risks.
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 email@example.com, or to speak to the Directors of FCP Ltd directly.
Natural 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’ve put forward a proposal for a complex conservation project at Victoria Road that will bring benefit to both people and wildlife. This proposal is currently going through the planning process. 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 and creating healthier sand dunes habitats for Formby’s at-risk wildlife, like sand lizards and natterjack toads, in the area where the rubble currently is.
- 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.
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.
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