“THIS is not Newquay,” were the words recently spoken to members of Cornwall Council by a Bude resident, as he raised concerns regarding the sand dunes at Summerleaze.
David Haines first presented his concerns about the future of the sand dunes at Summerleaze beach, by writing a letter to one of Bude’s Cornwall Councillors, Nigel Pearce, as well as the head of natural environment services at the council, stating that the dunes have been ‘dramatically damaged’, for what he presumed was the construction of more beach huts to go ahead at the site.
In a letter to Cllr Pearce and the head of natural environment services, David said: “This has to stop. It is frankly appalling what is being done. What is Cornwall Council trying to do to Bude? This is not Newquay. Bude is very special, as everyone who lives here and visits here will tell you.”
David received word from Cllr Pearce’s fellow Cornwall Councillor for Bude, who was elected to represent his ward during the county elections on May 4, Peter La Broy last week, who explained to him in detail the reasons for the change to the dunes, and put the idea of more beach huts to bed.
In a reply to David, Cllr La Broy said the dunes ‘have grown considerably over recent years’ and are making it difficult for RNLI staff at the lifeboat station, situated in Summerleaze car park, to gain a suitable view of the sea and harbour.
Cllr La Broy also forwarded a copy of a message from an officer at Cornwall Council, who had recently met with the lifeboat station staff to oversee what needs to be done to the dunes.
The officer explained that RNLI staff have become concerned about the growth of the sand dune system, which is located in front of the building. Although accepting the dunes are a natural defence and habitat, staff are concerned that the growth has ‘obscured the view from the lifeboat station and it has become very difficult to see anything within the harbour or on the beach’. This can potentially create an operational issue when crew have to respond to incidents.
The officer explained that it is hoped to take a two-metre section from the top of the dune system in front of the station viewing area. Work has been discussed with a local contractor, who has been working on Bude Sea Pool.
The plants will reportedly be removed and replaced once the sand has been moved. The sand will be ‘placed either at the toe of the dune system or put into areas where the sand has blown out’.
Cllr La Broy told the Post that he understands David’s concerns about the dunes, but is in favour of supporting the re-development of the system if it means assisting the RNLI team in their lifesaving work.
He said: “From my own viewpoint, I fully support the need of the RNLI to have reasonable sightlines of the sea and harbour area. If the dunes need to be reduced in height, that seems a reasonable and practical approach to the ongoing effectiveness of their service.
“I have spoken briefly with some fellow councillors at Bude-Stratton Town Council, who feel that the dunes could be lowered a little more. Whilst it is easy to imagine that the dunes are entirely natural and have been there for hundreds of years, this isn’t the case.”
He explained that until the 1980s, there was a much smaller and lower dune system in place at Summerleaze, casting views from the Castle up to the sea pool.
However, a project in the mid 1980s saw the plantation of marham grass and chestnut palings in an aim to trap the sand, which was highly successful. Since then, the dunes have ‘grown significantly — maybe even more than expected’.
Having heard from Cllr La Broy on behalf of Cornwall Council, David still shows heavy concern regarding the sand dunes.
He told the Post: “What does concern me is what damage or re-arrangements can be done to sand dunes like this. Surely there must be some environmental protection in place — are councils like Cornwall Council simply able to re-arrange natural sand dunes as they appear to be doing here?”
David’s partner, Annie, who walks their dog along Summerleaze every morning, recently saw a ‘pile of sand with all the plants in it’.
David said: “As for ‘carefully removing and re-planting’, that does, for now, sound like a joke. They should be thoroughly ashamed. I cannot imagine that area will re-grow in the foreseeable future.”
Cllr La Broy added: “I can see that people want to preserve the natural environment, but also recognise that the dunes, as they are today, wouldn’t be there in this form without significant human intervention.
“To manage them for the benefit of the town and to improve safety of our beach, sea and harbour users seems entirely appropriate — and, as I stated before, as the dunes are largely there due to human intervention, it is likely that no lasting damage will have been done in making the adjustment to their height.”
A spokesperson for Cornwall Council and the RNLI said: “Concerns were raised by the RNLI about the growth of the sand dune system in front of their building on the beach at Summerleaze, which is limiting their view of the horizon and making it very difficult for them to see anything within the harbour or on the beach.
“The council recognises the importance of the dune system. However, the current situation presents a challenge to the important work of the RNLI and so it is supporting the work to redistribute sand from the top of the dune system in front of the station.
“The contractor will carefully remove the plants and replace them back once the sand has been moved.”