Spurn visitor centre plans sparks opposition

The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust have recently released detailed plans for a new visitor centre at Spurn National Nature reserve in East Yorkshire. In their own words it "will be great for both wildlife and people", some local naturalists seem to disagree however.

The plans and artist's representation of the new Spurn visitor centre.

Below is a short press release from the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.

Spurn National Nature Reserve, an icon of the East Yorkshire coast and internationally renowned for its array of wildlife, will benefit over the next few years from considerable investment in its visitor infrastructure.

A dynamic and complex site, managing the large numbers of visitors to Spurn can be a big challenge for landowners Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. The wildlife of the nature reserve is sensitive to disturbance, particularly the large numbers of migrant and wintering birds that flock here, along with the plants of the fragile sand dune communities. Also, the legacy of hundreds of years of human activity has resulted in a landscape littered with the remains of industrial and military activity. Together with the dangers posed by the sea and the Humber Estuary, it is crucial that the Trust gets the opportunity to engage with the many visitors that flock to the site, to ensure their safety and to minimise the impact on the environment and wildlife.

In December last year, the historic tidal surge wiped out the road to Spurn Point and this event has created many new challenges and opportunities for the Trust. One of the key issues has been how to manage the people who still come to see this wonderful and unique site and its wealth of birds and other wildlife. Earlier this year, E.ON, who have been constructing the Humber Gateway windfarm which is visible off the coast, offered the Trust a generous donation to build a new centre at Spurn to help the Trust cope with the large number of existing visitors.

The building will nestle in the fields to the south of Kilnsea village, having little visible impact on the landscape and is carefully designed to blend in with its surroundings. The building will offer a community room that can be used by local community groups, school parties and others to learn about Spurn’s rich heritage and provide a number of employment and volunteering opportunities for local people. A modest café will offer hot drinks and cakes complimenting the offers in the nearby community. And, most importantly, it will provide a wealth of information to visitors about Spurn’s wildlife, cultural and social heritage, environment and renewable energy. Views from the centre will be spectacular over the North Sea to the Humber Gateway, and over Spurn and the river to the south. Brand new facilities for ringing activities have also been offered to Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s tenant, Spurn Bird Observatory, as part of the development project.

Just to the north, a new car park will be created, screened from the village by the careful planting of trees and bushes. This will address the current problem created by visitors parking along the road through Kilnsea, which creates a hazard to local people and other visitors.

As part of the project, the old condemned military buildings near the entrance to Spurn, known as the Warren, will be removed. The cleared Warren area, together with the car park and pathways connecting the area will be planted with new trees and bushes which will re-naturalise the area and provide valuable shelter for both migrant and breeding birds and other wildlife.

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust plans to submit a planning application for the developments in the New Year at which time there will be the opportunity for members of public to express their opinions about the proposals. All in all, the developments proposed will bring a brighter future for both the wildlife and local people of the Spurn area and a safer more enjoyable destination for the site’s many visitors.

More detailed plans can be found here

However there are a number of local naturalists who disagree with the Trust’s plans and have been voicing their concerns on social media and other outlets. Below is a response to the plans by local birder Mick Turton, which is being discussed on a new Facebook page called No to Spurn’s YWT Visitor Centre .

As a bit of background. I'm a birder, I've been visiting Spurn for the past 44 years. I've spent over 300 days birding there this year. I now live in Easington and, I've been to two meeting held by the YWT in the village hall. The first 'consultation' meeting was a real hoot. They, YWT, rolled out three or four proposed designs for the new centre. Take your pick, not do you want one. The site and design had obviously already been picked by them and there was no consultation offered with the locals. One stipulation, which was actually written down on the plan, was that it must offer good views of the wind-farm offshore. Eon’s way of saying look how green we are. After we were talked at, explaining how beneficial it would be to the community, how local jobs would be created, (always a winner when someone wants to do something nobody wants) we were invited to informal discussions with the three YWT representatives there. There was no offer of questions from the floor.

A clever move and a brilliant way to save making absolute fools of themselves in public when faced with embarrassing questions. Much easier to bullshit one person at a time. No local I spoke to at that meeting, or since, was in favour of the new visitor centre. A couple of months later when all had been decided by YWT another local meeting was held. Luckily this was advertised by local SKEALS member Jan Crowther as there was no mention of it anywhere else. Oh I almost forgot I found a wet poster on the floor of Kilnsea wetlands hide two days after the meeting, it hadn't even been pinned on the wall. The art of suppression is still alive and well within the ranks of the YWT. This second meeting was much more enlightening. They had two of the architects present with a little model of the centre. Three people from ABP were there. As they are abandoning the VTS tower at the point, more loss of revenue to YWT, they have incorporated a new radar mast on the new vc. They denied' not convincingly, this would add any weight to the planning application, . They were also very cagey when asked who had contacted who over the siting of the mast.

A talk with a YWT employee, (the only person I saw actually go over a ditch and through a fence to get closer to the Masked Shrike) was very informative. From their survey of visitors, what visitors most wanted was somewhere to get a cup of tea and go to the toilet. If I'm not mistaken there are public toilets at The Bluebell car park. Though the YWT have ignored requests for one on the peninsular for the last 40 years at least. When pointed out that there is actually a café at the Bluebell I got a reply that it only opens erratically. YWT own the Bluebell and lease it out, do something about it. When I enquired why not use the Bluebell as a VC I was just told it wasn't suitable and it only had a limited lifespan. As the road to the new VC runs past the front door of the Bluebell I asked how they would get people to it? Would they plough a road straight across from the Crown & Anchor? The answer was the centre will be modular and they would be able to move it. To where wasn't revealed. The big conservation project that was emphasized when I mentioned the lack of maintenance and conservation work done over the last 40 years, was the 'restoration of the historic dune system'. Obviously one more trendy phrase they have been brain-washed with, very similar to 're-wilding' I believe. I was told at least three times about this restoration. To me it was demolishing the old army building at the warren. Which will probably be washed into the sea pretty soon. But I had to agree that even a couple of years of historic dune system is better than a load of asbestos. But then again the designated historic dune system which had been surrounded by barbed wire behind the Riverside Hotel was apparently a farmer’s rubbish tip in a marshy field in the 1930's.

It seems amazing that it has taken the closing of the road to make YWT realise that they actually own a nature reserve and not a long car-park. As a reason to justify the vc they are now talking about the need to regulate access and protect wildlife from disturbance, things which have needed to be done for years but have been totally ignored.

I left both the meetings in Easington fuming at the ignorance and arrogance of those I spoke to and was spoken at by. They have no intention of listening to anyone. The whole idea it to try and recoup what they are losing from using a national nature reserve as a car-park for the past 50 years or so. No thought has been given to what the locals think or to any matters regarding the unique wildness of Spurn. I am not anti-visitor centre there are places for them, Potteric Carr is ideal, the centre at Old Moor RSPB is brilliant. Stuck in an area by the canal at Spurn is not. It is not going to 'nestle' anywhere, it is not going to have 'little visual impact'. It will ruin one of the few wild places left on the east coast.


If there any future developments we will bring them to you.


Rare Bird Alert
23 December 2014


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