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Sheep Grazing on Ainsdale Dunes


The local press have published a number of letters expressing points of view from one end of the spectrum to the other. Like the idea or loathe it, the proposal to graze sheep on the Ainsdale and Birkdale dunes has raised considerable public interest. But how much of this has been the result of understanding the reasons behind the proposals?

Ainsdale Civic Society is pleased to be able to bring you the background to the matter, so that you can form an informed judgement. Please take the time to read all about the plans.

Sheep Grazing on Ainsdale Dunes - Summary


Sefton Council is the major landowner on the coast. It is responsible for the management of a large proportion of the Sefton Coast SSSI and Special Area of Conservation.  The Council has a legal duty to maintain the SSSI in good condition. The area of the SSSI where the grazing project is proposed is in “Unfavourable Declining” condition.


Scrub management and grazing are a key project identified in the Sefton Coast Nature Conservation Strategy.


The Council has a ‘biodiversity/legal duty’ to maintain the SSSI. A package of external funding has been sought successfully through Heritage Lottery (Sefton Coast Landscape Partnership Scheme) and also Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) – the latter an agri-environment grant.


The proposed grazing project is for the Ainsdale and Birkdale Sandhills Local Nature Reserve which is within the Sefton Coast SSSI, Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Ramsar site.  The HLS proposal/agreement is for the extension of existing conservation grazing on this nature reserve. The agreement offers Sefton Council an annual revenue grant for 10 years and a fencing grant of to be used by April 2014; reducing the considerable burden on core budgets to fulfil the Council’s ‘biodiversity duty’.


Acceptance of the Agreement will change the status of the SSSI units to ‘Unfavourable Recovering’ condition. The Council will be seen to be taking action to fulfil its statutory biodiversity duty.


Considerable consultation for this scheme was undertaken through the process of developing a Nature Conservation Strategy for the Sefton Coast, adopted by Sefton and its coastal partners in 2009. Latterly, this project was also part of the extensive consultation carried out through the successful Heritage Lottery; Sefton Coast Landscape Partnership Scheme (approved Cabinet May 2010).


The work of the Council to improve the SSSI has the considerable support of all the conservation agencies on the coast and wider, including the Lancashire Wildlife Trust, Natural England, National Trust, RSPB, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust, Environment Agency, Merseyside Environmental Advisory Service. The work being carried out will ensure that future generations can enjoy all the special aspects of the coast that this generation enjoys now.


Sefton has a clear responsibility to protect the special nature of the SSSI for future generations and while fulfilling its ‘biodiversity duty’ under various pieces of environmental legislation, it has been creative in its ability to attract considerable external funding for what is essentially a legal responsibility.


There will be no restrictions on public access at all, but dog owners will be asked to keep their dogs on a lead when in the grazing enclosure. Sheep will only be on the dunes from the end of October to April and will only be in one enclosure at any one time on the Birkdale hills or the Ainsdale sandhills.

The Full Proposal


To read about the proposals in much more detail, click HERE and a .pdf file will download containing a 9 page report including the answers to many Frequently Asked Questions.


You can easily read, save, or print this file.

Grazing Information Note.pdf

Satellite Map


To see the areas proposed for grazing, hover your cursor over the small image above to see it much larger, or click HERE to download a copy.

HLS Grazing Proposal Map (2).jpg