I've been out to a few different spots since Christmas and whilst there hasn't been anythin earth shatteringly rare, there have been a few nice bits and pieces. I was especially pleased to finally get some decent shots of a green woodpecker at North Cave. The Hen Harrier was pretty special on the humber and a nice productive trip to Spurn enabled me to catch up with its trio of winter visitors.
The latest meeting of the Spurn Liaison Group took place on January 18th (apologies for the late blog post).
This was the last meeting at which representatives from ERYC would be in attendance.The reason that the SLG was set up in the first place was to satisfy the requirements of Planning Condition 21-ERYC were in attendance predominantly to monitor the SLG meeting.
There were lots of points up for discussion so I will try to keep them a succinct as possible.
There was a discussion about the build programme.The latest completion date has been revised to March 9th. YWT had previously informed the SLG (and wider public via their website) on a programme dated 4th December that it would be complete by 22nd December. So from having a programme that said there was 12 days to completion to revise the date on 15th January to 9th March leaves a rather large question to be answered about the accuracy of the information being divulged.Clearly there must have been a further significant delay.
One member of the SLG who is also a member of the YWT pressed for an assurance that there would be no further increase in the cost due to further delays. The last update (last Summer) suggested that the build cost was currently at £1.3milion. YWT gave their assurance that this cost would not increase because of the delay.
There was some discussion on communication especially around the prospect of further weekend working. One member of the SLG asked if YWT would call on residents in the immediate vicinity to let them know about potential disturbance as a matter of courtesy. There are only 6 residents in the immediate vicinity so it wouldn't be a big ask to pay them a visit. The debate went on for another 10 minutes before YWT confirmed that they would not be calling on local residents nor dropping them a note to advise of weekend working.
YWT confirmed that their project manager had left the contract.
YWT confirmed that there would be some community involvement during the lead up to opening day in the form of organised visits. YWT were going to liaise with the Parrish Council to confirm the details.
YWT confirmed that members of the SLG would be invited to the opening ceremony. They also confirmed that 'somebody famous' would be officially opening the VC. Ther were not prepared to divulge their identity at this time.The VC is planned to be formally opened at Easter.
A discussion took place regarding the damage to the hedgerow to make way for one of the lay-boys on Spurn Road.
I had challenged YWT on social media, and I had also written to them direct. I wanted to know why the damage had taken place when they had submitted a revision to Planing Condition 17 which put the lay-by in a different position to avoid damage to the hedgerow. I made the point that we are entrusting YWT to look after Spurn on our behalf . They tried to defend their action by suggesting that flailing bushes to within an inch of their life is common practice for hedgerow management across East Yorkshire. I suggested that their action was undefendable, to hack back those bushes with blatant disregard to the visual impact and the feelings of those who have to look at this when they visit Spurn. Not to mention the loss of nesting habitat. I said it was disrespectful and not the behaviour you would expect from those entrusted to preserve and protect our environment. I sing expand any further on the discussion however it is safe to say that YWT didn't like what I had to say and they displayed their usual 'tunnel vision' attitude that goes a long way to support the argument that YWT have no serious intention of repairing or maintaining relations with the local and wider Spurn community.
A discussion took place about the provision of a wind pump on Long Bank Marsh.For anyone no familiar with the area, Long Bank Marsh is the area of land opposite Kilnsea Wetlands. When the water levels are high after a sustained period of rain, and the field is flooded it can be attractive to fantastic flocks of wildfowl and waders. The flocks create a magnificent winter wildlife spectacle but they are attracted by the water. It was suggested that YWT pursue the possibility of providing a wind pump to pump out water from a nearby dyke on to the land to keep it wet. After a brief discussion YWT confirmed that they would not be pursuing the wind pump.
YWT confirmed that 'roving rangers' were to be sent out 2 hours before high tide while the VC is open. This is detailed in one of the documents to discharge planning conditions 6&7 which relates to wildlife disturbance. The roving rangers will be stationed at strategic points down the peninsula. The purpose is ensure that visitors do not stray into sensitive areas and disturb waders at high tide.
YWT also confirmed that they have looked closely at the operation of their Unimog vehicle, especially relating to the disturbance of waders at high tide. They confirmed that they have synchronised their trips on the Unimog so that they don't clash with high tide and hence roosting waders will not be disturbed.
A discussion took place regarding the Reacreational Disturbance Management Group, The meeting took place and it was my understanding that the RDMG would inform the SLG as to what had been discussed and agreed. I asked if the minutes could be shared with the SLG however nothing has been sent out yet so unfortunately there is nothing signficant to report on this matter.
On to matters relating to Planning Conditions , YWT confirmed that the signage placed near the car park was to be removed as they considered it inappropriate and they had made arrangements for it to be taken down. I also had a response form ERYC following a complaint and they said that the signage was non compliant with Highway requirements. ERYC had also confirmed that they were in discussion with YWT to ensure more appropriate signage is used.
The percolation tests to the car park have finally been carried out. They are a specific requirement of Planning Condition 15. It took a complaint to the highest level at ERYC gif those tests to be carried out. The tests have proven that the ground us not suitable for water to soak away. The planning condition states that the surface water should run off into a ditch or into a mains sewer if percolation is not possible. The drainage design however has been signed off by ERYC but still relies on percolation. Not sure where we go from here . Technically the run- off from the car park leaves residencies at risk from flooding during heavy rainfall.
I have had a response from the Highways department regarding double yellow lines ( remember this was asked for at the first meeting I attended in February 2017). They have confirmed that the verge must be maintained and it cannot be obstructed as it forms part of the highway. They also confirmed that they have no intention of placing double yellow lines along Spurn Road. This is good news as it should mean early morning access should not be affected due to the potential restrictions that were muted previously. I have asked ERYC to ensure that the Planning And Access statement (p43) is revised as it mentions placing material onto the verge to enhance the habitat it says Landscaping is designed to naturalise the area - planting characteristic scrub around the car-park and along the road verges and re-naturalising the Warren area that is currently disfigured by dilapidated buildings.( in reality it was to deter parking). The document will need revising so that Planning Condition 10 can be properly discharged.
The bird friendly glass required to be submitted and approved prior to the glass being installed (planning Condition 8) The glass was actually installed in July last year and at the time of writing still has not been approved. You have to ask the question who cares?
YWT submitted details to revise the position of a lay by as it apparently clashed with hedging. They cited the reason 'eliminating the necessity to remove hedging which would result in detrimental impact on wildlife habitat'. Firstly you would question why YWT bothered submitting an amendment to the condition if you have seen what a mess has been made. The hedgerow has been obliterated, no sensitivity on what it looks like and clearly test particular hedge will not be providing nesting habitat for a few years at least.
As I said at the start of this blog post, this was the last meeting at which ERYC would be in attendance. I have written to them on numerous occasions stating that Planning Condition 21 was not being complied with. The purpose of Planning Condition 21 is to keep people informed about the new development and the first line of the protocols document states that the purpose of the SLG is to repair and maintain relations with the local community. In my view neither has happened and this condition should not have been discharged.
Now if you think about it there has been a massive amount of public money allocated to the YWT to spend at Spurn, not least the £1.1million Coastal Communities money. Yet the group and wider community have been starved of information about this project. At times we have had to make a real fuss just to get basic answers. ERYC have done nothing to impose the requirements of their condition so effectively YWT have pretty much done as they like with Coastal Communities money with no apparent mechanism of holding them to account. They have made no real effort to engage with the community and showed a complete lack of willingness to effectively communicate and keep people informed. How can that possibly be right? It appears that they are answerable to no one.
YWT have made numerous claims regarding the VC, one being it would create up to 16 jobs (remember the purpose of Coastal Communities money is to promote growth and create jobs). Why then are YWT holding a pretty intensive volunteer campaign ? Why would you seek volunteers when you have made an open claim to create jobs? Why isn't coastal communities money being spent on what it was intended? What's more, what happens to the money in the budget set aside to pay wages? Furthermore any time when habitat creation was brought up the default answer was that there was no money available. How many people currently unemployed in the Kilnsea and Easington area will get a job as a direct result of the visitor centre?
YWT did say that the SLG will continue. Given that there is no mechanism for the community to have a say on how what is effectively their money is being spent, the SLG is the only way of keeping a check on how YWT are spending Coastal Communities money at Spurn. I do hope it continues.
The views represented in his blog are my own and do not necessarily represent this of the Spurn Liaison Group. All points are factually correct to the best if my knowledge.
Thanks for reading.
With a lack of local rare birds just lately I have focussed on some common species in a more dramatic setting. This involved either firs light (on the sea) or last light (on the Humber).
I'm quite happy with these, its given me some more inspiration this winter to make the most of not so early morning sunrises. All photos taken at Kilnsea/Spurn.