PROPOSALS to cut maintenance of Wirral's beaches due to a crisis with the council budget could have "beneficial" effects, according to conservationists.
The authority is currently consulting the public on a range of cuts to services as it struggles to set a legal budget next year while facing a £39m deficit.
Among the options under consideration are reductions in maintenance of parks and open spaces, including reducing grass cutting and stopping maintenance of most bowling greens.
Options could see either a £450,000 saving for a reduction in maintenance, or £850,000 saving through the more radical withdrawal of the service.
Also under consideration is stopping the cleansing of beaches, which also includes spraying them to prevent so-called "green beaches" forming.
But Wirral Wildlife, the Wirral Group of Cheshire Wildlife Trust, has told the council it would accept the plan to save £450,000 but opposes the more extreme withdrawal of parks maintenance.
In a letter to the council's chief executive Graham Burgess, the group said: "We would support the cessation of spraying and raking grass from the North Wirral Foreshore, as the formation of a new ‘Green Beach’ there would be beneficial to wildlife and people."
Dr Hilary Ash, Wirral Wildlife’s conservation officer, said the issue is a "hot potato" because many fear the beaches at Hoylake and Meols becoming like Parkgate if the grasses there were not sprayed to keep them under control. But she said this was unlikely and they believed sand dunes were more likely to form.
However, the group has also warned the authority of its legal responsibility to ensure beaches continue to be cleaned of litter as "half of the council-owned Sites of Biological Importance (SBIs) come under the proposed maintenance cuts". The group is also urging the council to "spend to save" to allow parks which will not be maintained to become woodland or wildflower meadows.
The conservationists have also highlighted concerns that proposed cuts to day centres could end up costing the authority more as several of them carry out maintenance at key sites across the borough. Day Centres currently manage the walled gardens at Brotherton Park, Bromborough, Royden Park, Central Park, Wallasey and land at Dale Farm, Heswall. They do other parks maintenance work as well.
The consultation on the cuts continues until January 31.
A Wirral Council spokesperson said: “We are facing unprecedented cuts to funding from central Government. This, combined with increased demand for social care in particular, means that we have no choice but to cut around a third of our budget.
“We are undertaking a large-scale consultation exercise with residents and local businesses – which closes at the end of January – in respect of a series of options for how we prioritise our services.
“Options for making savings do include looking at the maintenance of parks and open spaces, such as beaches, and we welcome people’s views on the matter.
“However, it is important to stress that no decision has yet been taken and we urge people to have their say before the consultation ends by calling into any one of our One Stop Shops or visiting: www.wirral.gov.uk/