Case Study

Scrub clearance works, Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire

Dynamic Dunescapes

Case Study Type:

Habitat Management Case Study

Sand dune system:

Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire

Case Study Subject:

Removal of patches of dense scrub preventing sand dune natural dynamics as part of a regular coppicing programme

About The Dune System Habitat Management Intervention

What was the issue/change you hoped to make?

The issue was dense blocks of vegetation growing in at Cleethorpes, which have very little in the way of structural diversity, all being very uniform and overgrown. This is also a heavily used area by the public, the design of which was not very efficient or effective in controlling the foot traffic or retaining ‘screens’ to reduce disturbance to birds.

The change we hoped to make was to coppice and remove lines of scrub to put back some structural diversity and age structure within the blocks, this would significantly increase the biodiversity of this area and future proof it for wildlife for years to come. In doing this we hoped to redesign small sections to the betterment of foot traffic while maintaining / creating screens of vegetation for wildlife.

This work is part of a longer-term coppicing plan, with different areas coppiced every 4 years.

What was the suggested intervention?

In December 2021/January 2022, Natural England cut down carefully selected sections of scrub at Cleethorpes as part of Dynamic Dunescapes, working closely with North East Lincs Council.

We needed to manage these dense blocks of scrub. Our work would also coincide with the Council’s 20 year coppice rotation, 2 cycles of which had already been done (in 4 year gaps). This was the next area to be managed.

For the past 25 years, Cleethorpes Dunes have been the focus of coppicing and removal work at five-year intervals. By regularly coppicing and clearing some areas of sea buckthorn and scrub, diversity is introduced back into the habitat. The result is a range of age, height, and plant structure within the habitat, with overgrown grassland once again exposed, and new growth flourishing. All of this leads to increases in biodiversity and the abundance of species seen.

What did you do and how?

The original plan had been to use a Softrak machinery to undertake the scrub cutting works, but as it was delayed in delivery, Creative Nature were contracted to take on the scrub removal works, and worked closely with Natural England and North East Lincs Council. Smooth communication between all parties involved was essential to the success of this works.

On closer inspection of the site, the size and age of the vegetation that required removing was also better suited to the contractor.

Two blocks of dense vegetation were coppiced with machinery to encourage structural and age diversity within the habitat, and the vegetation cut was removed from site.

How was the site / intervention monitored?

The majority of the on-site monitoring is undertaken by North East Lincs Council. In addition, hiring two staff members to be on site and ready to communicate with the public during the works enabled us to monitor public perception and deal with comments or complaints efficiently.

What modifications, if any, did you make to your initial plan and why?

The initial plan was to use a Softrak which was purchased and intended to arrive prior to the works taking place. It's arrival was very delayed which resulted in needing to find a contractor.

Highlight any issues/obstacles & how you overcame them?

A Knot (wading bird) roost was identified 270m away at high tide. So, noise levels of all machinery were recorded and a specific time window and methodology was used to mitigate any issues the sound may cause the birds. This took a significant amount of time to plan and led to some delays.

Burning of removed materials is a common practice but was not permitted on this site, so vegetation was required to be removed from site which increased project costs.

11 contractors were invited to tender for the project, only two responded and one of those pulled out, which meant extra work was required when the project was unable to fulfill the usual 'three required quotes' criteria for large spend works.

There was some controversy around the project too. The Humber Estuary and its surrounding land has a big birding community who were already battling consistent disturbances to arguably one of the most important over wintering wetland sites in the UK, in additional to playing an international role in bird migration. We would be coppicing and removing habitat that, although was uniform and overgrown, still had some bird interest. It made for an interesting communications challenge; educating the public about the benefits of future-proofing the habitat for wildlife and future generations, given that it is currently not in good condition. The vast majority of complaints that mirrored this issue were resolved on conversation about future-proofing and the ecological logic behind the works.

How much did the intervention cost?


What size was the area of the intervention?

2 hectares of vegetation removal.

What else went well?

Two hired staff were positioned on site ready to talk to members of the public if they had comments or concerns, which was very useful in dealing with concerns.

Smooth communication between all parties involved was essential to the success of this works.

Engagement Measures

How were the public and others engaged?

A press release was sent to local newspapers in advance of habitat works. Articles were published in the Grimsby Telegraph and on the Dynamic Dunescapes website.

Informational posters were positioned on site around the works and on footpaths to engage the public with what was happening, why it was happening, and whether their use of the site was required to change.

Two hired staff were positioned on site ready to talk to members of the public if they had comments or concerns, which was very useful in dealing with concerns.

We delivered a Dynamic Dunescapes webinar, hosted by LWT, NE and NELC. It included a presentation about sand dunes and habitat management works taking place in at Cleethorpes specifically.

The aim of this presentation address any concerns about the scrub removal works before they took place, and make the local community and stakeholders feel included. There were concerns about how the management works would be received, because the public have responded negatively to scrub clearance activities here in the past.

The event was well received. The Zoom meeting was recorded and made available on the Dynamic Dunescapes YouTube channel for posterity and wider access.

Available here:

The YouTube video was useful for directing people to more information when they brought the topic up in conversation.

Feedback: “Many thanks for the very interesting presentation this evening. I thought you and your co-speakers were very informative. Keep up the good work!”

How were communities or volunteers involved?

A volunteer day was held on the site to assist in some of the works.

Is the intervention working?

Please describe how. What has changed?

Works were completed in late 2021-early 2022 so it is too soon to gather data about species colonisation. However, as this work was part of an on-going coppicing plan that has been taking place over 20 years, large increases in the floristic diversity (including recolonization by several orchid species) can be seen in areas previously coppiced - even within one year of dense scrub removal. Before/After images of previous works in the same area are below.

The last round of scrub removal took place in 2014, and since then we have seen a range of orchids, including Southern Marsh, Common spotted, Bee, and Pyramidal orchids, start to grow in the coppiced area. This is great news for biodiversity, and especially for our local pollinators


Join Guy Mason from Natural England as he chats to Ben Burgess from Creative Nature on site during the coppicing works.

Credit: Dynamic Dunescapes:

A yellow digger can be seen clearing scrub from an area of dune
Contractors pictured undertaking previous coppicing works on areas of scrub at Cleethorpes
A section of dune covered in brown scrub and bushes
An area of Cleethorpes dunes before selected scrub removal work in 2018
A section of dune grassland is shown, filled with purple orchids
An area of Cleethorpes dunes after selected scrub removal work in 2019 carpeted with orchids
An area of grassy dune with low biological diversity shown
BEFORE: An area of overgrown scrub in 2013 just before scrub clearance was undertaken here
An area of dune with a variety of colourful wildflowers shown
AFTER: Taken in 2018, this area was coppiced in 2013 and now hums with wildlife and has far greater biodiversity