Wednesday, 11 January 2017



HARROGATE doctor Dr Andrew Whitworth has voiced his support for the proposed Spurn visitor centre, highlighting potential benefits to visitors,  Below are his comments - and those of other doctors - as submitted  to East Riding Council planners who are due to make a decision on the controversial scheme at a meeting in Beverley on January 26.

Dr Andrew Whitworth (Harrogate): Spurn Point is an important national nature reserve. Visiting there recently, I realised it is valuable for its wildlife, history and unique natural environment. I saw plans for the new visitor centre, and YWT seem to have gone to great lengths to ensure it is in keeping with the surroundings and has minimal visual and environmental impact. There are clear advantages in having all facilities together to give a better experience for visitors to the site. I myself experienced confusion with the split of facilities at present between the Blue Bell and the information hut. A single visitor centre will avoid any confusion and duplication and allow a greater appreciation and understanding of the site with enlarged facilities. This will also give benefits elsewhere in Holderness as many Spurn visitors will also be visiting other attractions in the area.

Dr Nick Watmough (Norwich):I have visited Spurn for the purpose of birdwatching on and off since 1977, most recently to attend the Migration Festival (September,  2105) and to see a rare species of bird called a Siberian accentor (October, 2016). The Migration Festival was an excellent example of community engagement by Spurn Bird Observatory that showcased this wild and fragile landscape. On the first day the acccentor was present, some1,500 people in the Spurn bird-recording area illustrated the difficulties of managing such large influx of visitors. The proposed visitor centre has the potential to increase significantly visitor footfall to Spurn ,allowing more people to get to know and appreciate the habitat. But to for the YWT to propose that they build it in on a site that will destroy important habitat for migratory birds, change the character of the landscape and place pressure on local roads and communities is not only perverse but also potentially in breach of their own charitable objectives.

Dr Danielle Gilroy (Old Bolingbroke):  I do not disagree that there can be benefits from such a centre for the ecotourism of Spurn, but the location has been undoubtedly chosen by nature and science-illiterate individuals who are completely ignoring the fact that they have chosen an area of land invaluable to local avian wildlife, not to mention the migratory birds passing through. Overriding the value of biodiversity and conservation is harrowing. It is also a grave insult to the general public and funders of the YWT to  disregard their objections. During the  process on the earlier application, that was thankfully rejected, more than double the number of YWT members who agreed with the application, argued fiercely against it. This is not because they are stubborn and do not want visitors to enjoy nature - it is quite the opposite. By building upon this fragile yet fantastically ideal habitat, the impact on the birds would be so great, and it is just not worth that risk. As the head scientist of a global conservation organisation, I can assure you I have seen parallel scenarios in other countries at other nature reserves, and if money becomes the priority, YWT and all parties involved will completely lose sight of their own foundations, and, in the long term, will collapse. I regularly visit Spurn. It is by far my favourite place to watch birds in the whole of the UK. It is wonderful, and the community there are very special indeed. They are warm and welcoming, their passion for conserving nature is contagious, and while there is a lack of a main base facility (although the new birds observatory is fantastic), there are many alternative options to the location being suggested in this application. If the parties involved were not acting so recklessly to get an approval as soon as possible, they could perhaps learn more about the area they so wish to exploit and work at least towards a compromise.

Dr Andrew Barbour (Skeffling): My objection is that the proposed planning is for a new - and I place a stress on new - building within an environment that is locally, nationally and internationally recognised as significant for its location and natural habitat, especially as a route through and stopping point for migratory birds. Conjoined with this is that the proposed increase in vehicle parking is over seven times the current capacity. This indicates that there would be a significant change in the volume of traffic movement in the area, thereby increasing the footfall and movement of people those vehicles will contain. Clearly, in an environmentally sensitive area, this will have an unsettling impact on any creatures that pass over, rest or remain within the surrounding area. And, not least, in proposing this change in the wild environment there is a lack of consideration to the voices of those residing within the locality and beyond. There is the opportunity here to be courageous and leave this area as it is, so that visitors can continue to enjoy an environment as devoid as possible of modern human intervention. In doing this nature can continue to thrive in an area as it has done in the past. We can then celebrate how unique the Spurn peninsula and surrounding area is without satisfying the urge of a small number of individuals to make a negative impact on the area to demonstrate their commercial and blinkered mindset.

Dr David Blackmore (Lymm): The original application earlier in the year was resoundingly rejected by a clearly well informed and sensitive planning committee, and I can see no logical reason why a newly convened committee could reach anything other than the same conclusion, bearing in mind that this latest application is basically the original application with only minor tweaking. No intelligent, open-minded person could be persuaded that the best interests of the
local residents, the wildlife and the many visitors that come to appreciate the very wildness of Spurn will be served by buildings and hardstanding placed on this most sensitive site. The YWT has adequate facilities only a few hundred yards away at the Blue Bell and surrounds which could be improved to satisfy any demanding visitor requirements with far less environmental damage.

Dr Keith Collett (Cleethorpes): This area is very vulnerable, and this appears to be a waste of resources whilst having a negative environmental impact.

Dr Barbara Allan (Lund): I am a member of YWT and object to this application. I believe the building of the visitor centre will damage the natural environment of Spurn Point. YWT already provide a cafe and shop here which is sufficient for this type of environment. If required, visitors can use facilities in the local villages and so support the local community and economy. If the proposed centre were to be  built, it would take up valuable land which should be reserved for wild life. In addition, it would encourage additional visitors which would again threaten the wild life and the local infrastructure which was  not designed for large numbers of visitors. Spurn Point is a very special and fragile environment, and I believe that it needs to be treasured and maintained as a wildlife habitat. Building of the centre and also the car park  would encroach on the habitat. I believe that YWT would be better off spending this money preserving a threatened
habitat rather than threatening this specific habitat.

Dr Mark Williams (Garforth): There is a real need for a visitor centre at Spurn. This proposal however, will destroy habitat for breeding and migrating birds, is unsightly, and is unpopular with residents. The proposed site is prone to flooding as has become evident in recent winters. There is capacity within and around existing buildings to provide a better and less disruptive option.

Dr James Robson (Thirsk): The application is destructive and shows flagrant disregard not only for wildlife in the area but residents and YWT members alike. Currently I am a member of YWT along with my wife and two daughters, and we share the same strong sentiment. I am also a member of Spurn Bird Observatory. I feel SBO should be recognised and commended for their choice in renovating an existing building for the new observatory and that YWT ought to learn from  their tender, sympathetic approach. The suggested parking and roadside modifications are nonsensical and ill-advised and will cause congestion outside  Kilnsea village. The visual impact of the building has not been accurately  represented by the artist's impression and has been played down by YWT. The site recently flooded, and this alone would make it an imprudent choice of location. YWT appear to want to commercialise a nature rich area with their intentions. This corporate playground approach is the exact opposite of what would maximise the value to nature here. Keep Spurn Wild!!

Dr Andrew Coxo
(Bromborough): This is an extremely important area for migrating birds, and I find it disgraceful that YWT should consider this to be a suitable location for such a building since I mistakenly thought they were concerned about wildlife. Perhaps their major motivation is more financially driven bearing in mind they no longer have income from
parking at Spurn Point!

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