Why can smoke be seen on Hartlepool sand dunes?
Council workers are going into battle to clear an invasive plant from an area of Hartlepool.
Work is underway to clear sea buckthorn scrub at Seaton Carew’s sand dunes and at Seaton Carew Golf Course – with the cut down plants being disposed of by burning.
The work will extend onto the land adjacent to the golf course.
The area, including land owned by Seaton Carew Golf Club and Hartlepool Borough Council, is part of the Teesmouth and Cleveland Coast area of special scientific interest (SSSI).
Natural England, who has ultimate responsibility, has identified encroachment of the invasive plants as a significant threat to the biodiversity of the sand dune habitats.
Sea buckthorn was planted at the site in the early part of the 20th Century and has since become a threat to the more diverse grassland, other vegetation and the species they support.
The council and golf club have secured funding through the Countryside Stewardship scheme to undertake the work and the method being used to clear the scrub has been agreed with Natural England and timed to avoid the bird nesting season.
Tom Stephenson, Hartlepool Borough Council’s ecologist, said: “People in Hartlepool have been expressing concerns for wildlife and the wider environment over the clearance of scrub, and particularly disposing of it by burning.
“The level of concern is appreciated and as a council we would like to reassure residents and explain why the work is being carried out.
“The council and Seaton Carew Golf Club have a responsibility as landowners to manage any threat that may occur and with sea buckthorn scrub seen as a significant threat to the biodiversity of the sand dune habitats, we need to act appropriately to clear the scrub.”
He added: “We want to reassure residents that, while the clearance appears destructive, it is intended to reverse encroachment of scrub into the dunes and is solely for the benefit of biodiversity.
"How we carry out the work has been agreed with Natural England and we time the work to avoid the bird nesting season.
"The burning is being timed to coincide with the prevailing south westerly wind so that smoke is carried out to sea.”