The overall Point of Ayr Land Management Program was implemented in 1995, as part of the original planning permission for the construction of the Point of Ayr Gas Terminal in North Wales, a key element of the Liverpool Bay development at that time.
Since 2014, when Eni took over 100% operatorship of the Liverpool Bay Asset, a number of additional habitat improvements have been made. These activities have served to maintain the favorable conservation status in the area while upholding the sometimes conflicting requirements between conservation and tourism at the site, which is required to benefit a coastal town in the UK for the benefit of its community and local businesses.
Entering into a project of this nature and on this scale in order to attain planning permission in a socially and environmentally sensitive way was an innovative solution to the planning controls facing the Joint Venture partners of the development at the time of construction back in the early 1990’s. This allowed Joint Venture participants to allay environmental concerns relating to the development at the very outset and continually build on this with an open and honest approach to all parties, up to the results today. The 450 acres (182 hectares) of land around the Point of Ayr Terminal are managed in accordance with legally-binding land management agreements with Natural Resources Wales, in perpetuity. The land in question (Eni owns it as part of the planning permission so it has been owned by the ‘Asset’ since day 1) is split into the following areas: Dunes, Farms (Warren and Llawndy), Colliery, Saltmarsh and Colliery Field. Generally, the implementation of the Land Management Program (covering the dunes, the farms and the saltmarshes, the decommissioned colliery is not part of this), which was at first perceived to have potentially negative environmental impacts, is now seen as a positive contribution to preserving and enhancing natural environmental features of key importance in this area of North Wales.
In the spirit of partnership working, Eni has developed mutually beneficial working relationships with organizations such as North Wales Wildlife Trust, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust and Keep Wales Tidy as well as Flintshire County Council and Natural Resources Wales. These relationships assist Eni in the enhancement of the site, ensuring we continue to deliver on our land management commitments while providing organizations with access to a site in which they can conduct species reintroduction programs or engage a volunteering community with conservation projects and education.
On an environmental basis, an enormous amount of ecological data has been collected for analysis, which has allowed mapping activity of ecosystems and biodiversity over the course of the program. This has included species population trends, habitat succession and dune accretion and erosion. Initially this data provided a baseline from which to set future targets and plan new projects and initiatives, a vital element for the ongoing success of this project. The area is now a Natura 2000 site, designated in 1998 as the Gronant Dunes and Talacre Warren SSSI (Sites of Special Scientific Interest) and The Dee Estuary SSSI, both of which form part of The Dee Estuary Special Protection Area (SPA) and RAMSAR site and Dee Estuary Special Area of Conservation (SAC).
Natura 2000 is the combined term for sites designated as Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protected Areas (SPA).
The Convention on Wetlands, called the Ramsar Convention, is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. It was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971 and came into force in 1975.
Special Protection Areas (SPAs) are strictly protected sites classified in accordance with Article 4 of the EC Birds Directive, which came into force in April 1979. They are classified for rare and vulnerable birds (as listed on Annex I of the Directive), and for regularly occurring migratory species.
Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) are strictly protected sites designated under the EC Habitats Directive.
Since 2014, when Eni took over 100% operatorship of the Liverpool Bay Asset, a number of additional habitat improvements have been made. These activities have served to maintain the favorable conservation status in the area while upholding the sometimes conflicting requirements between conservation and tourism at the site, which is required to benefit a coastal town in the UK for the benefit of its community and local businesses. Over the last two years the success of the Land Management Program has been evident in a number of the project’s key achievements and impacts. The overall Program includes: a ForeDunes stabilization project, the Natterjack Toad Reintroduction and maintaining population numbers at Talacre, the Sand Lizard Three Year Reintroduction Program, the creation of environmentally sensitive car parks to manage balance between conservation and visitor pressure, the general Habitat Improvement. Warren Farm is managed primarily as an autumn/winter bird reserve with ‘light’ or ‘restricted’ farming practices to support the management of the bird reserve. Eni UK Ltd is in agreement with Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to carry out this management. From October to March the fields are artificially flooded from rain water reservoirs. Grass sward height in each field is critical to create the correct bird feeding and roosting habitat and this is controlled by grazing. Eni begin the practice of conducting bird surveys in late September through to the end of March.
Ongoing erosion pressures face a popular coastal site such as Talacre. Natural coastal erosion is most evident in winter storm conditions when high tides are pushed further onshore by high winds but there is erosion associated with visitors and users of the site too. The summer months can attract thousands of people to the beaches and dunes. This movement of people has the effect of eroding new paths and trampling dunes vegetation, creating sensitive and vulnerable areas.
Protection of ecosystems and biodiversityPractical management of this erosion uses natural type fencing to encourage and accelerate natural sand catching in the dunes and dunes building processes. For the last two years an additional project with the help of Flintshire Countryside Service Rangers has been in place which has allowed people to recycle their Christmas trees at Talacre which can then be used to help build up the dunes damaged by winter storms. The dead trees are part buried in a sand trench and wired together to secure them. The trench is then backfilled with sand, leaving the trees exposed for the most part. In 2015, the first layer of Christmas trees was installed, adding 2 meters of height to the dunes growth. This was repeated in early 2016 with an additional layer of trees resulting in approximately 4 meters total height recovery.
During the baseline ecological surveys undertaken at the start of the project in the mid 1990’s and research into historical data, it was discovered that the rare Natterjack Toad once had a strong population at Talacre but was no longer recorded at the site, probably due to a number of factors such as habitat loss, breeding ponds drying out and predation. A project was developed to reintroduce the Natterjack Toad to Talacre sand dunes but its success would be dependent on ongoing habitat management to create and maintain suitable safe feeding and breeding places. In 2016, the site has a five year average of 120 spawn strings a year with regular night-time sightings of over 100 adult toads. The population is now regarded as self-sustaining and can be used to donate/translocate eggs and tadpoles to other new introduction sites along the North Wales coastline. This translocation activity has been carried out in 2015 and 2016 with a total of 360 tadpoles moved 30 kilometers east up the estuary to a new site.
The program is coordinated by Eni staff and relies on local volunteers giving up time to attend training sessions in identification and survey techniques before joining more experienced volunteers on survey nights two or three times a year. This network of volunteers also come together to assist with habitat management works such as scrub clearance and invasive plant species control throughout the year. In 2016, volunteer manhours improved approximately 160 m2 of dunes habitat. This was a significant increase on previous years due to new links forged with two local colleges, the Coleg Cambria campus in Deeside and Llysfasi in Ruthin.at Talacre which can then be used to help build up the dunes damaged by winter storms. The dead trees are part buried in a sand trench and wired together to secure them. The trench is then backfilled with sand, leaving the trees exposed for the most part. In 2015, the first layer of Christmas trees was installed, adding 2 meters of height to the dunes growth. This was repeated in early 2016 with an additional layer of trees resulting in approximately 4 meters total height recovery.
The rare Sand Lizard, also a European Protected Species, had been previously reintroduced to sites along the North East Wales coast at Barkby Beach, Denbighshire and Presthaven Sands, Flintshire. It is a cross county project and organized by the biodiversity officers with support from only the volunteer community. With downward population trends a new location was vital to increase sand lizard numbers. Talacre was proposed as a 3rd introduction site due to the continued positive habitat management improvements by Eni and partners. The first of three consecutive year’s release of 60-80 juveniles took place in September 2013. Survey data from the 2016 season recorded five adult sand lizards, of breeding age, a great success for this type of project. Project partners included the local authority, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ARC) Trust and Chester Zoo’s breeding program along with a host of committed volunteers.at Talacre which can then be used to help build up the dunes damaged by winter storms. The dead trees are part buried in a sand trench and wired together to secure them. The trench is then backfilled with sand, leaving the trees exposed for the most part. In 2015, the first layer of Christmas trees was installed, adding 2 meters of height to the dunes growth. This was repeated in early 2016 with an additional layer of trees resulting in approximately 4 meters total height recovery.
The environmental principles behind the project could be applied to projects planned in any similar sensitive coastal environment, in particular those, which have been subjected to previous industrial development on a large scale.
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