Well it's 3 weeks in cue the New Visitor Centre opened at Spurn by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.
Strangely they kept the opening date quiet, they didn't disclose which 'celebrity' would be opening it and it was opened on a Tuesday. Almost seems as though they wanted to keep it quiet.Rather strange strategy given that it has been heralded as their flagship reserve.
The last Spurn Liaison Group (SLG) meeting was held on 18th January this year and it will come as no surprise to anyone that the minutes from that meeting were not issued until the 8th March. By then any communications or actions had become irrelevant and that single action alone epitomises the lack of engagement from YWT and the lack of urgency from East Riding of Yorkshire Council in showing some belief in their own Planning Conditions and erodes the faith from the general public, suggesting that this process has been nothing but a box ticking exercise. How does circulation minutes 7 week after the event constitute good communication? They are not even posted on YWT's website.
I asked at the meeting back in January for the minutes of the recreational disturbance management group (RDMG)to be issued to the Spurn Liaison Group. The RDMG was set up in order to fulfil another Planning Condition (9) for statutory bodies and others to review mitigation measures proposed as part of the Planning process.That action remains outstanding despite numerous reminders.
On the subject of recreational disturbance, there is a planning condition that was required by the RSPB and on the understanding that the measures suggested would be fully implemented, then the RSPB would lift their objection. Let's just think about that for a minute. The leading voice for nature conservation in the UK objected to this development on account that the increased number of visitors would cause excessive disturbance tho wildlife (specifically wading birds feeding and resting over Atuumn, Winter and Spring). The Humber Estuary has the highest level of protection that it could possibly have SSSI, Ramsar, SPA. Quite rightly the RSPB were right to ask for detailed mitigation measures. They only lifted their objection because Yorkshire Wildlife Trust agreed to carry out thise measures.
They are listed below;
Modification to the footpath network as shown on Map 1 of the addendum to the Visitor Acces Strategy
The deployment of a minimum of four roving wardens at Roving Ranger Focus Points shown on Map 3 and Map 3 of the addendum to the Visitor Access Strategy for 1.5 hours either side of all high tides during the visitor centre opening hours.
The blocking of undesirable informal desire lines.
The construction of a screen at the Warren
The provision of signage, markers and temporary viewing facilities at the washover.
Habitat management for curlew and whimbrel throughout the triangle
Permanent signage with information on little terns at locations shown on map 2 of the Addendum to the Visitor Access Strategy at Kilnsea wetlands.
I can confirm that today, quite categorically that none of those measures have yet been implemented. 3 weeks after opening with 10 months to prepare not a single action has been fully carried out.
People have been wandering aimlessly around sensitive occasions and on numerous occasions dogs have been seen off their leads down the peninsula.
Theer was a dog on the peninsula yesterday and two today.
How can this possibly be allowed to happen?
How can an organisation whose primary purpose it is to protect our wildlife be allowed to erect a visitor centre and car park (and therefore take your money) but not put time and resource into preparing the area for increased visitors despite a planning condition saying it had to?
I have written to the chair of the Recreational Disturbance Management Group (RDMG) at the East Riding of Yorkshire Council calling for an extra ordinary meeting of the RDMG-his response? There will be a meeting in June. Yes June and the date hasn't even been confirmed yet.Wader numbers on the Humber will be building now as they prepare for their journey to Northern breeding grounds. These waders are internationally protected. In the meantime ERYC are prepared to ignore their own Planning Condition at the expense of wildlife disturbance within an SSSI.
I have also written directly to the RSPB and Natural England hopefully they will add their weight and get this matter resolved much more quickly.
The Recreational Disturbance Management Group should meet next week for goodness sake!
Given that YWT have not posted the minutes from the last Spurn Liaison Group meeting a few extracts are below (highlighted in bold)
DT asked for update on roving rangers. TS explained the rationale behind this and the objective to manage potential recreational disturbance. Four focal points are being established (cliff at end big hedge/northern end Clubley’s Field, Reserve entrance on Spurn Road, Warren, and washover) a simple structure would be created (eg interpretation panel, screen, resting post) and the roving rangers would operate around these areas to interact with visitors and minimise potential disturbance at high tide.
This is YWT's interpretation of Roving Rangers as described at the last meeting. Why aren't they all in place as required by the planning condition? Why are YWT reliant on Volunteers? Why aren't YWT paying people to warden the peninsula? Why is Coastal Communities money not being spent on wages? There was £270,000 set aside to pay wages from the CCF money.Why are the Yorkshire wildlife Trust allowing wildlife disturbance to occur on a Site of Special Scientific Interest in pursuit of financial gain?
MS suggested that there must be significant problems to have caused such delays. AS explained that issues with sub-contractor have caused delays and that the team are keen to ensure high quality standards are achieved.
Anyone visiting the area will quickly realise that those quality standards that the team were so keen to achieve have fallen way short. Some of the landscaping finishing is shocking. YWT have been naive in accepting those standards. The build programme of 5 months has overran by 5 months and the standards of workmanship are quite simply unacceptable. You have to question, bearing in mind this is all funded from charitable donations, as to whether the YWT are actually capable of this kind of project management. Significant delays, significant overspend (original budget was £900k now stands at £1.3m and no way is that building and car park worth £1.3 million) and at the end of it they are left with sub standard workmanship. Are the YWT competent to be entrusted with huge sums of money if this is the end product?
IS feels that flood risk to some houses will have increased due to car park and that ERYC have been negligent in in the process. AWa pointed out that statutory consultees in flooding and drainage are content with works and that if others are still concerned about procedures followed by the planning authority they would need to take this up with the planning ombudsman.
This is borne out of Planning Condition 15 which I have previously written about. In short I have taken the advice from the member of the member of ERYC (AWa) and taken this matter up with the Planning Ombudsman Service. They are currently investigating the case and I will report back their findings when they get back in touch.
PJ explained that he had expressed concern over additional costs of the visitor centre due to time over runs. TS asked whether PJ had received his email response and then went on to explain that as delays are due to sub-contractor YWT expects that any related costs will be passed to them.
There you have it, an assurance from YWT that the costs for the Visitor centre will not go over the revised budget. This needs watching very closely.
I have also written to Natural England regarding the use of the Unimog at Spurn. It is constantly being driven down the peninsula flushing waders at the washover with no apparent consideration from the operators as to when a trip might coincide with high tide. It is also causing damage to the fragile dune system that has already been ravaged by winter storms. All of this is happening within a Site of Special Scientific interest. It appears that the Unimog was actually funded by Natural England with the primary purpose of giving access for YWT to carry out repairs. It appears YWT are more interested to operate the Unimog in pursuit of financial gain at the expense of habitat destruction and wildlife disturbance. The Conservation of Habitats and species regulations and specifically when operating within an SSSI (section 16 3 b) states that 'Management Agreements may impose on the person who has an interest in the land restrictions on the exercise of rights over the land'.I have therefore asked if a Management Agreement exists between Natural England and the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust for the use of the Unimog at Spurn. I have also asked if I can see a copy and if one does not exist I have asked if one can be set up and made public as a matter of urgency.
Everything within this blog post is factually correct to the best of my knowledge.
Thanks for reading.