The pinewoods on the Sefton Coast are a much loved and key feature within the coastal landscape and are the home to an increasingly nationally rare population of red squirrel, a fact so significant that the woodlands have recently been designated as one of a number of national refuges.
The woodlands, largely established in the late 1800s and early 1900s, had suffered from fragmentation in ownership and a consequent lack of management with the result that they have aged and begun to suffer incursion from opportunistic ‘weed’ species such as sycamore, poplar and sea buckthorn. The aging is crucial as it would have eventually led to a reduction in the amount of pine seed available to the red squirrel as a food source; furthermore the establishment of the opportunistic species would have lead to a habitat more suited to the grey squirrel. The Sefton Coast Woodlands Forest Plan
Despite the disparate management objectives of individual landowners, it was almost unanimously understood that a slow, but significant change in the character of the woodlands was undesirable. In the year 2000 a number of the owners and site managers of the pinewoods, together with key stakeholders such as the Forestry Commission and local interest groups, met to try to rectify the situation. They formed what was to become a very effective partnership catalysed by the Forestry Commission, sustained through support from The Mersey Forest and under the overall umbrella of the Sefton Coast Partnership.
The outcome of a very long process of consultation and negotiation was a Forest Plan approved for implementation by February 2003. The Plan was written for a 20 year period, 2003 to 2023, with 10 years of activities detailed from 2003 to 2013. The broad, long term objectives for the pine woods are: To maintain an historically important landscape; to provide a suitable habitat for rare and important species; to provide people with the opportunity for the quiet enjoyment of the countryside; and to provide an opportunity for businesses in the area to thrive, all of this within the context of a partnership that is striving towards the high quality management of the landscape. A set of short term objectives were put in place to help achieve the long term objectives.
The land owners and site managers have been working hard to implement the annual action plan which sprang out of the short term objectives within the Plan and collect monitoring information. Reviewing the Forest Plan
When the Forest Plan was written and consulted on, there was an undertaking to review it at year 5 (2007 / 2008). The achievements, problems and issues all need to be evaluated in the light of whether the action plans are helping to work towards the short term objectives and whether there are any gaps or weaknesses in implementation.
The schedule for review and revision is built into the structure of the Plan and in order that changes emanating from the review can be incorporated into the second cycle of operation. The review process will have been completed by December 2007 to ensure that changes are incorporated into the 2008 action plan. Conclusion
The Forest Plan has provided a framework enabling the landowners and interest groups to make significant progress in managing the pinewoods. It has been an effective mechanism for bringing people together, resolving disputes, developing consensus and informing the general public of activities and progress. It has given the land managers a legitimacy that is both legal in nature and in the perception of the public.