Threat to conservation area on dunes at Newquay's Fistral beach
Fears have been raised that a wildlife conservation area in dunes on a Cornish beach may not survive the summer.
Residents and community leaders in Newquay say dunes at Fistral beach are being swiftly destroyed by harsh weather and careless visitors trampling over the site.
A protective fence at the sea-facing side of the area blew down four months ago – but Cornwall Council has said it will not be replaced.
One local woman, Alison Hanlon, said she had witnessed youngsters scampering up and down the dunes and playing games.
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The conservation area is home to a range of wildlife including ground-nesting skylarks, small copper butterflies, marram grass, pyramidal orchids and the spot burnet moth.
Signs around the site clearly request that visitors stick to footpaths and keep out of fenced areas. Damage to wildlife carries a fine of up to £20,000.
Mrs Hanlon said she had called the council about the fence but was told it could not afford to replace it.
She said: "During October half-term all the kids were running up and down the section of dunes nearest the car park and most of this has now disappeared. I'm worried the dunes will have been completely destroyed by the summer."
Her concerns were shared by Cornwall councillor Joanna Kenny, who covers the nearby Pentire division.
Mrs Kenny said the council's "heart was in the right place" when it erected the fence last year – but it was only a matter of time before it was flattened by storms. A "more natural" solution was needed.
"The Fistral beach sand dunes are of great concern and we need to preserve them not only against inconsiderate visitors but against nature," Mrs Kenny said.
"We have a magnificent team of local volunteers who meet regularly to clean Fistral beach and sand dunes. The council's beach ranger has recently met with the team and is coming back with a new protection scheme based on natural planting.
"The theory goes that if we can get the sand dunes looking good and cared for, then visitors might respond by being a little more considerate with their litter."
A Cornwall Council spokeswoman confirmed the fence would not be replaced, stressing the dunes are accessible with or without it.
She said: The issue is not about banning access but rather about education and understanding."