A concerted campaign has been launched to get sand-yachting back on St Annes beach – with new rules covering dogs on the beach the key.
After a decade-long ban on the sport following a fatal accident, a temporary trial windsports licence was issued by Fylde Council last year but wasn’t taken up by sports operator Trax.
A key stumbling block was the issue of third party insurance regarding beach users and roaming dogs – but a group of campaigning councillors are now determined to remove the impasse.
Former Fylde mayor Coun Howard Henshaw has long been an advocate of the safe return of the sport which attracted thousands of visitors to the resort for national and European championships.
He is keen to build on the recent British championship success of veteran sandyacht competitor and local resident Ian Dibdin and get windsports back on the beach.
Coun Henshaw has joined Fylde Council colleagues Ed Nash and John Davies in an all-party working group in a bid to find a solution. They say a return of the sport could unlock ‘massive potential’ for the local economy.
Sandyachting and other associated windsports were banned at St Annes after mum-of-two Carole Cruz died in a collision with a craft on the beach in 2002.
More than a decade on, after working closely with environmental watchdog Natural England, Fylde Council issued a six-month trial licence last year for the other windsports. Enthusiasts hoped that might open the way for a return of sandyachting itself but the insurance issue proved a vital obstacle.
Under current regulations, dogs are banned altogether during the summer season on the stretch of ‘amenity’ beach between St Annes pier and the lifeboat house, owners can allow their pets to roam without a lead elsewhere all year round.
Trax Sports managing director Eddie Sloane said: “All we are asking for are for some signs to be erected asking owners to keep their pets on a lead in the zone in which our sport is operating while an event is on.
“We have been here five years and are really keen to see the safe return of windsports but we have carried out the risk management and we can’t get insurance to cover the situation while dogs are allowed to roam free. Dog walkers we have spoken to see the wisdom of it but it needs signs to make it clear.”
Coun Henshaw said: “Surely we can find a solution and make the most of this wonderful natural facility we have.
“Ian Dibdin winning the British championship recently, 50 years on from his first national triumph in St Annes, was a wonderful achievement and it would be marvellous to build on the extra interest prompted by that.” Coun Sue Fazackerley, Fylde Council’s cabinet member for leisure and tourism said: “It’s a dream of mine to see sand yachting return but the ball is firmly in Trax’s court.
“It’s not Fylde Council’s fault that the sport hasn’t returned. The ban was lifted but the temporary licence not taken up.”
A Fylde Council spokesman said: “We agreed a six-month trial licence last year but the company we offered it to did not make use of it, which was a shame. We would still like to enter an agreement with either the original company or with another company. Any potential operator would have to show they had the capacity to guarantee public safety.”