Coastal heritage


Coastal Heritage

Report on purchase of Southport foreshore by Southport corporation from 1914-27

Stephen Williams

Areas of land near the coast around Southport, which included the foreshore, were previously owned by estates such as Ince Blundell and Edward Fleetwood Hesketh. This land began to be purchased by Southport Town Council in the late 19th century and continued after the 1900 Power to Purchase Act. The power to purchase the area of foreshore within the Ince Blundell estate came from the Southport Corporation Act 1913. Correspondence regarding the foreshore purchase began in November 1914, when the agent of the Weld Blundell estate asked for a map of the area that the Corporation wanted to buy. By June 1925, the focus moved to the Ince Blundell estate. A Councillor Kennedy enquired about the possible numbers employed in work on Marine Drive and the estimated total cost. In the letter, an "unemployment grant" is mentioned, which may indicate central government action to help the jobless by providing finances to possible employers. A report from 14 September mentions that when the Town Council bought the area of foreshore owned by the Scarisbrick estate, they "acquired certain rights from the Duchy of Lancaster over the foreshore".

In the same month, the District valuer was asked by the Corporation to estimate the cost of purchasing the foreshore area owned by the Ince Blundell estate. Another report, dated 18 September, provides a brief account of how the Hesketh and Scarisbrick estates were purchased in 1885. It goes on to mention that the foreshore is under risk of being submerged, as the present sand-dunes are insufficient and that sea walls are required. The cost of this development, plus road-building, would mean the foreshore could not be profitable. Despite these disadvantages, the Corporation would find the area valuable because it would allow the town's amenities to be developed and control the foreshore to Southport's advantage. The estate could not afford to reverse the stagnation on Ainsdale seaside, so the report recommends that, in view of the expense, it should be sold to the Corporation "on extremely reasonable terms". On 29 October, the District Valuer met with the Corporation's Borough Engineer. He mentioned that the Ince Blundell estate was receiving rents totalling around £200. But they had the expense of a Foreshore Ranger for the area. It is reported in a transcript that the agent for the Clifton estate at Lytham St. Annes proposed a higher valuation of the Ince Blundell estate than the District Valuer.

The Ince Blundell estate's agent wrote to the Corporation on 22 December, asking whether it could retain 50 acres after the sale. He went on to claim that London land agents were interested in purchasing areas of the estate. In the following year, the Town Clerk received a letter suggesting that a London firm may have written to the Southport Visitor confirming the letter from the Ince Blundell representative. An account from 15 February details a telephone conversation in which the District Valuer gave his valuation of the foreshore to the Borough Engineer. He also confirmed that the agent for the Clifton estate thought the area was worth significantly more than his figure. On the same day, the District Valuer wrote to the Town Clerk advising him to apply for a loan from the Ministry of Health. An estimation of the amount needed to build a continuation of a road between Marine Drive and Weld Road was requested by the Borough Engineer from his deputy on 1 March.

The following day, the Corporation met with the Ince Blundell estate to discuss the price of the foreshore. A figure of £5,500 was proposed by the Town Clerk, immediately rejected by the agents of the estate, who suggested twice that amount. The Borough Engineer explained the high cost of development, including a road and works to prevent erosion from the sea reaching the sand-hills. No agreement was reached, so a future date was arranged for further negotiation. In the next meeting, on 16 March, a figure of £8,000 was reached. The agents for Ince Blundell required a right of drainage for the Birkdale Golf Links and that the estate would no longer have to supply sand to the Boys' Camp. Also agreed was the amount of land exchanged (3,767 acres) and that the Cheshire Lines railway should build drains around their tracks within the area. An independent valuer was then appointed by the Ince Blundell estate, who was reminded by the Corporation to act swiftly, otherwise compulsory powers of purchase would be used under the Town Planning Scheme. On 13 September, another discussion between the Corporation and the Ince Blundell estate took place. The independent valuer suggested £10,000 to purchase the foreshore and the Corporation agreed that a loan for that amount could be requested from the Ministry of Health. Correspondence in January 1927 between the Borough Engineer and the Town Clerk addressed clauses in the foreshore purchase, such as points of access. A lawyer acting for the Ince Blundell estate wanted this matter negotiated between the parties, rather than specified by the Corporation.

On 22 February 1927, the Borough Engineer received a letter from a Coal Merchants in Birkdale, asking for permission to remove sand from the foreshore. This was because they had noticed large amounts of sand being taken away regularly. The firm probably assumed that the people doing this had received permission from the estate or the Corporation. A unequivocal reply was sent the next day, saying that no-one is allowed to remove sand from that area and anyone found doing this would be prosecuted. The Borough Engineer then wrote to the Forest Road Depot., instructing them to put up signs around the foreshore warning people about the consequences of stealing sand. He had found that "carters" had been doing this "for many years", and the Town Clerk advised the police to stop anyone attempting to take sand from the foreshore.

A letter was received from the estate informing the Corporation that the Southport Motor Club had a tenancy, renewed each year, to use an area of foreshore on 14 September 1926. The Southport Motor Club wrote to the estate on 23 February 1927 asking for renewal of an agreement to use the foreshore. Because the purchase by the Corporation was not complete, the estate had to consult with them before allowing the club to continue. On 25 February, the Town Clerk replied to the estate's request for renewal of the Southport Motor Club's application by saying they would be free to use the foreshore until 29 September. He also advised that individual tenancies should not be renewed.

The Ministry of Health gave consent on 10 February 1927 for a loan of £10,350 to Southport Town Council for them to "purchase the Birkdale & Ainsdale foreshore". The sale was completed on Thursday 5 January 1928.