In the field of psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort suffered by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs, attitudes or values.
It doesn't matter what happens at the New Visitor Centre at Kilnsea from now on. So far it has been a disaster. It has been a disaster for every person, organisation who knows Spurn or who has never been but affected it by their action. The reason it has been a disaster is because of the following reasons;
It has been a disaster for EOn. A quick search on google for Eon Spurn East Yorkshire brings a page full of negative publicity regarding the visitor centre at Kilnsea. A search on EO.n's website for Spurn, Kilnsea and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust produces no mention of the visitor centre. This from the company that has donated over £900k towards the visitor centre. Are they are too embarrassed to even acknowledge it on their website? Anyone who spends that kind of money donating to what they perceive to be a 'good cause' would surely want to shout about it and tell the world? It is clear that EO.n want as little publicity from the VC as possible and considering they have shelled out in excess of £900k this can only be viewed as a disaster. It was stated that the cash from EOn came from a 'community fund' i'd like to know precisely how EOn think the community has benefitted from this project. At the start of this process, would EO.n have been so keen to support the Visitor Centre if they knew how it would turn out?
This visitor centre has been a disaster for wildlife. A flower meadow has been lost, wildlife has been continually disturbed while it has been built, excavations have disturbed hibernacula for protected species (lizards), nesting habitat has been destroyed, the proposed lighting scheme is completely unacceptable and detrimental to wildlife, the building itself is centred in the middle of prime cover for migrating birds and the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust want to encourage something between 40 and 60 thousand visitors a year. The East Riding of Yorkshire Council and their consultees were so concerned over disturbance from visitors they imposed a planning condition specifically relating to recreational disturbance. The increase in visitors will no doubt increase the use of the YWT's Unimog. This all terrain vehicle travels across the dunes causing damage to the dune system and the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust have an annoying habit of taking it down over high tide and disturbing internationally protected waders and then make dubious claims that they will co-ordinate their trips with low tide- they offer a meek apology and say it wont happen again. Quite simply it doesn't happen. YWT are prepared to unnecessarily disturb wildlife in the pursuit of financial gain. It has also been highlighted that the increase in visitor numbers will almost certainly increase visitor presence around the little tern colony at Beacon Ponds.
When asked about enhancing habitat, mitigation, creation of more wild areas to mitigate the space taken up by the Visitor Centre Yorkshire Wildlife Trust claim there is no money. The same Yorkshire Wildlife Trust that are prepared to spend £15k on a children's play park at the Point.The introduction of this visitor centre is therefore a disaster for wildlife.
The visitor centre has been a disaster for the local community. They have had to endure an extended build period with construction vehicles passing through the village, noise disturbance and a developer who was not willing to communicate or inform what was happening. Yorkshire Wildlife Trust have sent out one newsletter regarding the Visitor Centre in 12 months. They argued at the last Spurn Liaison Meeting for 10 minutes against knocking on 6 residents doors to inform them of possible weekend working. Arguably the biggest contributors to YWT funds when the road was open were sea anglers-they were not even considered, consulted with nor any concerns taken into account. The only contribution made to sea anglers is another 500metres added to an already arduous walke by relocating the gate. The biggest financial contributors have, as with most other groups been treated with contempt.The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust have been given £1.1 million pounds by the Coastal Communities Fund. The purpose of that money (according to the Coastal Communities website) is to promote growth and create jobs. The visitor centre is currently £400 k over its proposed budget ( that was confirmed by YWT in June 2017) the project has since been delayed by another 4 months. There is no doubt in my mind that this delay will incur further costs. That is at least an extra £400k of what is effectively public money being spent on covering up errors, mistakes and delays through poor project management. The VC had a contingency allocation of just over £100k. There was a commitment from both ERYC and YWT by the introduction of a Planning Condition (21) to keep people informed during the build process and to re-build and maintain relations. Neither happened and it would be a fair argument to say that relations have deteriorated further not improved. Yorkshire Wildlife Trust made a pledge in the build up to Planning Approval that the visitor centre would create 19 jobs and apprenticeships. I'm not entirely certain on how that can stack up.However I do know that there is currently an active campaign for the YWT to recruit volunteers at Spurn. I also know that at least £170k has been set aside to pay wages. If I were a resident of Kilnsea ,Easington or indeed Withernsea I would be asking the direct question, how many people currently unemployed who live in these towns and villages will get a job as a direct result of the visitor centre? Why as a means of building some bridges or repairing relations didn't YWT consider spending some of their money on the play park in Easington where there are actually some children? YWT have decimated the landscape, hacked hedgerows back leaving an unsightly mess. They have sent out a message that says we don't care about what happens to the environment, we don't care about the feelings of the Spurn community just as long as we get our visitor centre. Probably the most concerning element of the Coastal Communities money is that there is no mechanism in place for the people spending the money (YWT) and those who it is intended to help (the local community) to decide on how best to spend the money. How can that possibly be right? Why the secrecy? The Spurn Liaison Group were constantly reminded in no uncertain terms that it was not a decision making group- well why shouldn't the community have a say, somehow in how money intended to benefit them was spent? The YWT have a strap line within their annual accounts that refers to 'Be local' It is clear that these are just hollow, meaningless words. YWT have done nothing to 'be local'. The Chief Executive Officer of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust claimed that building the visitor centre 'would give Kilnsea a reason to exist' yet Kilnsea isn't even acknowledged on their fancy new maps dotted around. I accept that 'building and maintaining relations' is somewhat subjective, however if YWT had shown some humility, some respect and actually listened and reacted to peoples concerns then may be some of the protesters signs would have gone by now.The divisions created by YWT will take years to be repaired if indeed they ever do. The Visitor Centre and the actions and behaviours of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust has been a disaster for rebuilding bridges with the local and wider Spurn Community.
The visitor centre has been a disaster for the National Lottery and the Coastal Communities fund. The VC has been shrouded in bad publicity, it has undermined the principles of handing out money to what is perceived to be a good cause and there are some big questions to be asked on how the money is obtained, how it is spent and how it is proven that the objectives are achieved at the end of the process. It is clear however that the prime objectives of promoting growth and creating jobs are not at the top of YWT's agenda, it is safe to say that given the current financial position, a significant amount of that public money has been squandered. To me it seems too easy for someone with a busy schedule at the National Lottery to process a bid for funding and because it is under the banner of 'Wildlife Trust' that it is bound to be spent on good causes. There seems to be no means of monitoring performance or holding anyone to account. We were constantly told by YWT that here was no money available for habitat improvement. Surely improving the habitat improves the wildlife spectacle and encourages more visitors? The visitor centre has undermined the faith in the process for allocating funds and how they are spent. The National Lottery and the ill managed Coastal Communities funds mean they are complicit in the debacle and from a PR perspective this has been a PR disaster for the National Lottery.
The visitor centre has been a disaster for the East Riding of Yorkshire Council. Planning Permission was refused first time around on account of Flooding and Environmental impact by a unanimous decision by the Eastern Planning sub- committee but then with minimal amendments the proposal was put before a different planning committee and it was approved with a majority of 8-4. This quite amazing decision raises eyebrows straight away. The ERYC then acknowledged the need to rebuild and maintain relations by the introduction of a specific planning condition(Planning Condition 21) This gave hope that a line had been drawn and everybody including the YWT had an opportunity to work together for a better Spurn. This was in fact false hope. YWT had no intention of rebuilding relations and unfortunately ERYC had no intention of upholding their own Planning Condition. They had the opportunity to hold YWT accountable by using the mechanism within the Planning Condition to make it work. Unfortunately they didn't and people's faith in the planning process has been massively undermined and instead of a planning process being in place to protect us, whispers of 'cosy relationships' with ERYC and the YWT have grown louder. From the outside it appears that ERYC have not been able to hold YWT to account and it looks like a classic case of the tail wagging the dog. There is no doubt about it that ERYC Planning enforcement has had their work cut out dealing with a substantial amount of complaints. All of this has been played out on social media and it has been hugely damaging to faith in the planning process and therefore it has been a disaster from a brand perspective for the ERYC and disastrous for peoples faith in the planning process.
The biggest losers in all of this are the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust themselves. For them this ill conceived project has been a disaster. They admitted that they should have been more engaging with the community in the lead-up to applying for planning permission. They had a golden opportunity to repair and rebuild relations by the creation of the Spurn Liaison Group instead they failed miserably in any form of engagement or communication. This process has however put YWT under an intense spot light (surely they would have realised that when they pressed ahead with such a controversial project?). It starts with the initial plans a) why would a wildlife trust press ahead with a visitor centre and car park in an area prone to flooding, in the middle of a prime migration flyway and why would they even think of putting a telecommunications arial bang in the middle? If that had been any other developer they would have been all over the media protesting from the highest rooftops. The fact is they have blundered from one disaster to another. They have had to revise their Construction Environmental Management Plan and associated documentation 13 times since the start of this project. Surely an organisation with wildlife protection at the heart of their purpose for being should have a robust plan in place in the first place that might need the odd tweak. To change their CEMP 13 times in less than a year makes them look like a bunch of amateurs that don't know what they are doing. It looks as though they are changing the goalposts to suit their project management failings on site. Natural England stipulated that the building work should only be carried out between April and August to mitigate disturbance to the waders on an internationally protected site.The latest change to the CEMP is to cover works that are still going on and has only just finished in March- classic case of changing the goalposts. It appears that every other week there is something going on down there that creates a whole new surge of negative publicity. The latest being the lighting scheme for the car park. Wholly unacceptable, costly to replace and hugely damaging to the brand of YWT. Quite frankly a huge embarrassment.This isn't an isolated incident. Works have been stopped because of wildlife disturbance on an SSSI. How can that possibly happen? This project should have been a showcase on how it should be done. They could have generated huge amounts of positive publicity on social media. It's happening on their doorstep for goodness sake and either they don't care or are incapable of managing wildlife disturbance on one of their own reserves. Incredible.
Their brand has been damaged probably irreparably. They have put in a development in a sensitive area that flies in the face of every other objection they will ever make. How can they have a credible voice against damage to the environment when they are guilty of exactly the same thing themselves? What about how their members feel? Why are there no messages of support on social media? How do their volunteers feel all of their hard work is being undermined and the very credibility of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust is being brought into question by those responsible for running the organisation. Be Local? seriously are you are having a laugh.
If Yorkshire Wildlife Trust had shown some genuine interest in making this process more palatable and had implemented serious measures in engagement, decision making and communication, they might have been able to build up some good will then maybe, just maybe people would have been willing to cut them a bit of slack. However their tunnel vision determination to build this visitor centre at all costs (whether it be financial, environmental or damage to relationships) unsurprisingly sees them getting a savaging on social media every time they put a foot out of line. For all the hard work of their media team sending out stories of the good that YWT are doing, each one is undermined massively as they lurch from one blunder to another and the whole saga is played out on social media.
Yorkshire Wildlife have alienated almost every interest group that visits Spurn. Some people will never ever set foot in that visitor centre because of the actions and behaviours of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. At the last planning application over 3000 people took the time to comment 200 for and the rest against. How many of those 200 who supported it would do so again? What have YWT done to appease the 2800 or so who opposed it? Because of YWT action and behaviours whether it be poor communication, wildlife disturbance, planning infringements or failed promises,how many of those 2800 will actually use the visitor centre? The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust have alienated a huge amount of regular visitors to Spurn, they are going to be hugely reliant on that group of people ( if one actually exists) that have not been affected by the way YWT have conducted themselves throughout this process.
We don't have to use their car park. That has been confirmed by East Riding Highways department. We can continue to park on the verge. Why would anybody pay to park when they don't have to?
If I were on the board of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust I would be asking the question what the hell is going on down down at Spurn-you are making us look like a set of amateurs?
No matter how dire a situation, I always try to look for a positive I can genuinely say that there is nothing positive to report about Yorkshire Wildlife Trusts visitor centre at Kilnsea, nor is there anything anyone is saying to contradict my claim.
When this visitor centre finally opens on Tuesday, there will be no celebration, it will not symbolise success, there will be no winners.There will be only losers who have in fact have lost massively already.
All things happen for a reason and when you look to why this visitor centre has panned out as it has, you look for an explanation. Why would an organisation whose primary purpose is to protect our wildlife pursue something that is so damaging to wildlife, the environment and ultimately their brand? It appears that their beliefs are completely at odds with each other. For anyone seeking an explanation for this whole debacle, Cognitive Dissonance might be a good place to start.