COCKLING looks set to become a booming business on St Annes’ beaches once again.
The commercial practice was banned in the 1990s to give mollusc stocks time to recover – but licences will again be issued from next month by the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA).
And more than 50 potential businesses have been in touch to ask about beach access.
Tests have shown that St Annes’ cockles will soon be big enough to be harvested.
Permits can only be granted by the IFCA, but Fylde Council plans to issue Beach Access Permits to manage access to the beach by channelling cocklers through the Fairhaven Road car park.
Cocklers will have to pay charges to use the car park for the vehicles that will carry the cockles to market.
Cockling will be allowed between September 1 and the end of March.
The rich cockle beds are concentrated between St Annes pier and Granny’s Bay and the cockling gangs will have access to the beach restricted via the Fairhaven Road car park to minimise disruption to local residents and other beach users.
Coun Tommy Threlfall, Fylde Council cabinet member for environment and partnerships, said: “Cocklers need a permit from the council to cross the beach and also to use the Fairhaven Road car park to take cockles to market.
“We need to at least cover our costs as our staff – and staff from IFCA – will have to monitor their activities. Any cocklers found to be in breach of their permits, or taking undersized cockles, will face enforcement action.
“It is vital to ensure that residents and other beach users aren’t inconvenienced, so we are restricting access.
“This is a traditional activity with a long history but it is controlled so that only cockles above 19mm can be harvested.”
Coun Threlfall added: “Cockling is mainly done by rakes so there should be minimal noise nuisance although there is likely to be vehicle movement.
“We don’t know how many cocklers will turn up and we can’t ration access. What we can do is ensure orderly access and manage the activity.
“So that cockles are processed correctly, the council will issue movement permits to ensure they are taken to the correct treatment facilities.”