Volunteers set to run port’s nature reserve

Fleetwood Town Coun chairman Terry Rogers.
Fleetwood Town Coun chairman Terry Rogers.

Plans to take over the running of a nature reserve in Fleetwood have been agreed in principle by town campaigners.

Fleetwood Marsh, an 18-hectare site off Jameson Road, is currently run by Lancashire County Council but the authority says it will have to withdraw its ranger service in March due to cash constraints.

Fleetwood Town Council staged an extraordinary meeting at the town’s North Euston Hotel to consult with the public and to vote on whether to take custodianship of the reserve, which will still be owned by County Hall.

Of the 10 councillors who took the vote, eight agreed to the move, one voted against and one abstained.

The Fleetwood council will now set up a working group to help create a friends group for the reserve and mobilise other volunteers to take over the jobs of the rangers.

Despite agreeing to the move in principle, the Fleetwood council will not formally take over custodianship until March.

The nature reserve currently costs Lancashire £8,500 to oversee each year, but town council chairman, Coun Terry Rogers, says that figure can be radically reduced and insists the local council has the funds to run it without needing Fleetwood’s council tax payers to fork out a single extra penny.

Coun Rogers said: “This is about Fleetwood taking control of our valuable amenities, I am sick of seeing our assets being closed down by people from outside Fleetwood.

“We can afford this and will make this facility even better.”

But Coun Rita Hewitt, who voted against the move, said afterwards: “I voted against it because most of the public didn’t seem to want it.

“We already pay our council tax to Lancashire County Council, why should we be paying extra and how much is this going to cost us?”

Classed as a biological heritage site because of wildflowers and nesting birds, the land was originally industrial, occupied for many years by Fleetwood Power Station before it was reclaimed by the County Council a decade ago.

County Hall’s representative Tim Blythe, in charge of green space, was asked what it would mean if the town council chose not to take over.

He said: “The county council will not get rid of this nature reserve, but we will not be able to provide any services there at all, be it rangers who look after it and keep it tidy, or any additional community activities.”

On-going problems to look at include professional dog walkers allowing large groups of dogs to run loose and repeat fly-tipping on the road leading up to the reserve, Jameson Road.

One member of the public, a dog owner, said she would be happy to help tidy the reserve and be part of a volunteer force.

But Tom Norton, who originally helped set up the town council, said: “The town council has no business plan for this, and that bothers me.”