Yesterday I went to Easington and discussed the proposed new visitor centre at Spurn with the director of operations at the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.
here is the e-mail I sent summarising our discussion.
Thank you for your time on Friday your thoughts on the proposed new visitor centre at Spurn were useful in helping me to clarify Yorkshire Wildlife Trusts (YWT) position on the matter.
I made the point early in our discussion that I am not opposed to a visitor centre at Spurn and would agree that Spurn would benefit from a VC in the correct location.
I suggested that the reduction in visitor numbers has arguably helped with the 're-Wilding' of Spurn and as a cornerstone surely this should be the basis of a concerted effort to protect Spurn.
We discussed YWT' desire to 'capture people' at the entrance of the reserve. My view on that is that people currently are naturally scattered over the area at the moment and a concentration of people at the point of the proposed new Visitor Centre (VC)would cause excessive disturbance especially to the wader roost at high tide.
I did not agree with your response that wider dispersal of visitors causes more disturbance as this has been going on for years at Spurn without any noticeable impact.
I also mentioned my concerns that the bushes (known as Canal Bushes)next to the proposed site are one of only three sites (the others being the Warren and Churchyard/crown) in the area offering significant cover for migrant passerine birds. Canal bushes are also my favourite place to photograph birds at Spurn and we both agreed that whilst these bushes and the migrantbirds that use themwould suffer from increased visitor disturbance due to the siting of the VC,most of the casual visitors would arrive after 10am and therefore if I arrived just after dawn (as I usually do) I would still be able to search for and photograph the birds in that area.
We then went on to discuss proposal for parking. I questioned the arrangements for parking and whilst you suggested that parking around canal bushes was problematic, I disagreed stating that the road was not a thoroughfare but effectively a 'dead end' and even when it was busy there are neither problems with traffic movement nor damage to the verges.
We also discussed the detail on parking arrangements.Specifically the placement of double yellow lines and a lockable gate.I said it was my understanding that the car park outside the proposed visitor centre and the one at the blue bell would be 'pay to park' and that double yellow lines would be in place right back into Kilnsea village.You also stated that the YWT had a desire to discourage parking on verges by introducing measures that would dissuade parking and possibly enhance habitat. I took it that without you giving a straight 'no' to my question as to whether parking restrictions would be incorporated with the scheme, that either the Traffic Regulation Order or indeed YWT would require/request the need for double yellow lines. You didn't disagree with my understanding that the double yellow lines would extend back to Kilnsea village. I also enquired as to whether the car parks would be gated, to which you replied that you/YWT would be 'pushing' for the car park to be gated.
To which I then referred to my previous point about arriving at dawn before the crowds, and in light of the parking restrictions and gated car park, this would in fact not be possible, to which you could offer no immediate solution, you did remind me however that the VC will not meet everybody's needs.
We then moved on to visitor numbers. I asked about the membership of YWT and you stated that it was between 43 and 44 thousand. I then queried as to why only 134 wrote in support of the VC during the planning application process. You quite rightly corrected me stating it was 150 but we both agreed that it was a small number given the membership numbers.You went on to say that those member numbers are an estimate based on wider familymembership and the YWT data base held around 10,000 members.This prompted me to question where in fact the support for the visitor centre has actually come from. Unfortunately I cannot recall your response but on this point I remain unconvinced.
We spoke about visitor numbers and groups and the figure of around 20,000 per year. Without hard data this will always be a matter of conjecture and so therefore will be the visitor split (I.e the different groups of people who visit) whilst I didn't question it at the time I am unsure how you could establish that the majority of visitors are day trippers (50%) with no real desire to look at wildlife and that naturalists are in the minority especially when it is common knowledge that the annual figures of those who visit Spurn are only estimates.
I mentioned that I also go sea angling and my interest in the natural world started when my dad used to take me fishing at Spurn point.We agreed that the majority of sea anglers are well behaved at Spurn and their impact on wildlife disturbance is minimal. We also agreed anglers may, arguably the biggest contributor to the revenue generated by Admission fees at Spurn, we then went on to discuss the impact of the breach and the issues anglers face with access. Currently anglers are able to make the best of the situation-that is to say they are able to park at the warren area, at any time of day and then walk to the chosen venue along the peninsula .With the proposed plans in place it is concievable that a sea angler could arrive early in the morning (as they most often do) to find the gates locked then with double yellow lines in place find the only place to park would be Kilnsea village . Even if the car park was open the proposed VC would add at least 400 m to the walk, impose restrictions on anglers with mobility issues, and restrict the times when anglers can fish and with parking restrictions in force night fishing at Spurn would be out of the question. I think the point about theprovision of access for sea anglers took you somewhat by surprise as whilst you said you could work with me on that point,you could offer no immediate solution.This no doubt will be a cause of conflict in the future if an amicable solution cannot be found. It seems a shame that those who may have contributed most financially to YWT finances at Spurn have not had their access needs taken into account during the planning and consultation period.
We discussed the benefit of nature tourism and the Yorkshire Nature Triangle. We agreed generally that there is a potential benefit to local economies created by people visiting an area to view wildlife,however it is wrong to compare Bempton directly with Spurn (as stated in YWT promotional literature )as arguably the VC at Bempton does not impact on either the landscape or wildlife and is almost a perfect model that suits the requirements of all and keeps everybody happy. The proposed VC at Spurn most definitely does not suit the requirements of all as you reminded me on more than one occasion. I would also be interested to know how a VC in the current proposed location would enhance the local economy. Given that yearly visitor numbers at Spurn are only an estimation,how can any figures calculating the economic benefit be justified?Whilst we didn't discuss this point in detail I would be interested in knowing if ever there was a 'loss' to the local economy due to the flood of 2013.
We discussed the involvement of Eon and the fact that they are funding the scheme. I asked if Eon would still support the scheme if it was relocated to another position. You replied by saying they would.
We spoke about the rift between the YWT and those who oppose the scheme and the tactics employed by the YWT public relations company at the outset of your/their promotional campaign. It is common knowledge that the new VC would be and is a contentious and controversial issue and I made the point that some of the statements made by the YWT during the promotion campaign served only to deepen the division and promote acrimony.Rebuilding relationships between all those people who love Spurn is going to be difficult as a result of how things have transpired.
I made the point that whilst things may be going on behind the scenesat Spurn,I have not seen any visible improvement to habitat made by YWT at Spurn (nor any information advising of it for that matter). The only visible change to the landscape by YWT I have seen is the introduction of hundreds of metres of barbed wire. I suggested that an early way of building some bridges (and busting a few myths) would be for YWT to implement habitat improvement works and demonstrate that they do in fact invest funds in that department.
I concluded our discussion by making the point that YWT are only interested in trying to re-establish the boundaries at Spurn in pursuit of financial gain. I also stated that YWT are prepared to change the landscape at the expense of the landscape in pursuit of their desire to build a VC. I stated that after enjoying Spurn for both sea angling and wildlife photography for well over 40 years the YWT, by the introduction of their new VC, will irreparably spoil my Spurn experience and for that I am truly saddened. You responded (as you did on a number of occasions) by stating that you cannot keep everybody happy and meet everybody's needs. I would question who's needs you are in fact meeting as those of naturalists and sea anglers have clearly been disregarded.
Finally I thanked you for your time and for your response to my queries.
Trusting this is a true reflection of our discussions. If there are any queries please let me know.
Kind Regards Martin