Action promised over Hartlepool dunes blazes

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Councillors have pledged to put their money where their mouth is to help tackle firestarters’ unprecedented damage to the sand dunes in Seaton Carew.

A series of deliberately set blazes since the spring has devastated over two-and-a-half hectares of the dunes, which are home to a wide variety of plant and wildlife.

Councillors Kelly Atkinson and Paul Thompson at the fire-damaged North Gare Sand Dunes earlier this year.

Councillors Kelly Atkinson and Paul Thompson at the fire-damaged North Gare Sand Dunes earlier this year.

Seaton’s three councillors have offered to support initiatives by countryside leaders, who manage the area, to educate young people about the dangers out of their ward budgets.

Sarah Scarr, Hartlepool Borough Council’s heritage and countryside manager, said: “A series of deliberately set fires has devastated large tracts of Seaton Dunes, an area notified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest partly because of its rare and diverse sand dune plant communities.

“These areas totalled 2.55 hectares and this degree of damage is unprecedented in recent years.

“In the short to medium term, the impact on the plant and invertebrate communities is one of total destruction. The Countryside team is working with the Friends of Teesmouth, Seaton Dunes and Common to look for ways of engaging with young people to educate them about the ecological damage caused by these attacks.”

Seaton Carew councillor Paul Thompson

Staff attended a Primary School Conference at the start of this month and will run an activity to address the problem.

Seaton councillor Paul Thompson, who sits on the Regeneration Services Committee – where the issue was discussed – said fellow Seaton councillors Kelly Atkinson and Tom Hind, were prepared to give any financial help they could to help tackle the problem.

Coun Thompson said: “We would like to offer some financial support to any initiatives. It is a big problem.

“My concern is if we don’t start to address this, the grass will grow back, but we are talking about possibly the loss of a life.

“We need to do something before that happens.”

In April, the Mail reported how a spate of dune fires had left large swathes of the area burned black and cost Cleveland Fire Brigade £10,000 in call-outs in just one week.

Steve McCarten, fire district manager, said anyone caught setting fires will be prosecuted.