Hilbre disaster: Lib Dems demand answers

Liberal Democrat environment spokesman, Councillor Allan Brame, is demanding to know who is responsible for the sequence of events on Hilbre Island last week.

Council contractors apparently filled a cavern with expanding polystyrene in an attempt to shore up the overhanging cliff. Tides then washed foam into the sea, and later the materials were set on fire, pouring toxic smoke into the air.

The island has been closed to the public until at least next Saturday, August 31st.

Councillor Allan Brame said, “I have unearthed a report from 2016 into the sea defences on Hilbre, which highlighted safety concerns about the erosion of the cliffs on the north western corner of the island. It warned of the potential loss of land and risk to people using the area.”

The report spelt out the difficulties of preventing further erosion: ‘It is the constraints imposed on carrying out work, primarily associated with tidal restriction, access arrangements and environmental designations that impose the major hurdles on carrying out actions in a cost-effective manner.’

It went on to set out a series of options for stopping the tidal damage:

  1. Allow the cliff to deteriorate and erect warning signs and, perhaps, barriers.
  2. Fill in the cavern that is undermining the cliff by pumping a cementitious based material into the space, or filling it with imported material; or material harvested from the adjacent beach
  3. Construct a 100 metre long rock buttress in front of the cliff.

“The island is a sensitive and iconic location, a habitat for seals and many species of birds. It is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest,” Councillor Brame said.

“I want to know who decided that a contractor should be asked to fill the cave with foam, with all the consequences that have led to the island being closed for several days. Who imagined this was a suitable material to withstand the powerful tides that sweep around Hilbre twice a day?

“I have asked for a report to come to the Environment Scrutiny Committee so we can understand how this disastrous decision was made.

“We need to see details of the specification for the work and the risk assessment that was carried out. We need an explanation why the recommendations in the 2016 report were not carried out and what is now to be done to put matters right.

“Wirral residents are rightly incensed that a botch job has been carried in this prized beauty spot.”