AN £85,000 grant will help boost a local nature reserve and help secure its future.

The grant awarded to Heswall Dales from Natural England has been welcomed by Wirral South MP, Ben Chapman who has backed the campaign by local residents.

Recent encroachment into the heathland, by gorse and scrub, had led to concerns from local residents and community groups about the management of the site.

Mr Chapman said: “Since the issue of Heswall Dales was first brought to my attention by the Heswall Society, I have taken a keen interest in it and have walked over it on a number of occasions.

“I welcomed then Environment Minister Joan Ruddock, to the site earlier this year and have raised the issue in Parliament as well as with Government departments.

"I look forward to meeting the area manager for Natural England, Paul Green, on site in January and hearing how the project will be taken forward.”

Heswall Dales consists of 72 acres of lowland heath and is situated close to the Dee Estuary and has panoramic views of North Wales.

The heathland was recognised in 1979, as the second best remaining example of lowland heath in the Merseyside area, Thurstaston Common being the first.

Heswall Dales was designated as a site of Special Scientific Interest SSI, and in 1991 it was given the status of Local Nature Reserve.

Wirral Council are to receive £85,000 from Natural England, to maintain the site, after committing to a programme of ongoing maintenance and work is likely to start as early as January 2009. This comes after a review of the Countryside Stewardship Agreement between the two organisations.

Mr Green said: “We are now in the happy position of having secured significant resources to provide to Wirral MBC to make a major investment in improving the management of the site, through scrub clearance to improve the heath land.

“I am sure that this will be a major piece of good news for the local residents who have been so concerned that the heathland is being lost.”

A spokesman for Heswall Society said: “We are delighted to hear of the major grant which has been promised by Natural England and which will enable much of the areas of the dales to be restored to their former state.

“This should enable the too few council staff to maintain the restored areas in their natural state.”