October 10, 2008

Should It Stay or Should It Go?

By peter craig

The saltmarsh on Cleethorpes seafront is more important than tourism, according to an ecology expert.

Freelance ecology consultant Bill Meek has waded into the debate about the growth of saltmarsh along the Lincolnshire coastline, claiming the benefits of the grass are taken for granted.

But Coun Chris Shaw says action must be taken now to stop it spreading - before it "devastates" the resort's tourism lifeblood.

Mr Meek and Coun Shaw have spoken out following the publication of the first in a series of six reports from the Institute of Estuarine and Coastal Studies, which is monitoring the growth of the saltmarsh.

As reported, it was received by members of North East Lincolnshire Council Cabinet, and scientists said the grass is getting thicker.

Now Coun Shaw (Lab Sidney Sussex) has called for the matter to be discussed urgently at the next meeting of NELC's Environment Committee.

He wants the stretch of beach running north from Cleethorpes Leisure Centre to be protected.

He said: "The beach will turn into mud and then transform into saltmarsh, and we will lose the beach.

"We are told we cannot dig it up. If I was in charge, I would report it to a minister and get MPs on board. We need to do something.

"If we lose the beach, why should people come?"

As reported, environment watchdog Natural England (formerly English Nature) has banned the previous practice of pulling out tufts of grass by hand to prevent the spread of the saltmarsh.

But Mr Meek, from Humberston, argued: "Our saltmarsh has a unique assemblage of creatures and it protects the sea wall.

"The Cleethorpes saltmarsh is more important than its holiday industry in the long term. If it continued in this form and you remove it future generations may think it was short-sighted.

"After all the fish that end up in our fish and chip shops were spawned in saltmarsh. There is not much saltmarsh globally, but beaches are common."

(c) 2008 Grimsby Telegraph. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.