|Will proposed visitor centre spoil - or enhance - the appeal of Spurn?|
A CRUNCH decision on the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust's controversial proposal to construct a visitor centre at Kilnsea, near Spurn, is due to be made later this month.
The trust hopes it will prove an enjoyable and educational experience for the thousands of
extra visitors whom it hopes to attract to the adjacent Spurn peninsula in the coming years.
However, the venture has sparked bitter contention, both from villagers concerned about increased traffic and from birders who fear commercialisation of a site which has long been deemed precious for its unique wild character.
There are also concerns that the location might be detrimental to migrating whimbrel and other waders.
A decision on whether to approve the project is due to be made at an open meeting of the East Riding of Yorkshire Council's planning committee to be held at 2pm on January 26.
The planning case officer is Karen Abba who has pored through more than a thousand documents - both for and against the visitor centre - in advance of making her recommendation
to the committee.
However, she is not revealing her recommendation - which could be crucial - until the agenda is published, probably at some time during the week before the meeting.
The trust's original application was turned down by the committee in July but it has since submitted a revised application.
In a bid to garner support, it staged a series of drop-in sessions in autumn, but not all of these were well received.
Says the YWT's Spurn Gateway manager, Peter Waddingham: "There has been a lot of incorrect information doing the rounds and we have been trying to give people the chance to learn the facts.
"Misinformation has created fear and uncertainty across the local community and in some cases has led to a lot of hostility.
"As we have seen, once armed with the right information, many people, including former objectors, are now supporting the need for better visitor facilities at Spurn.”
According to Mr Waddingham, the trust sees the proposals for a new visitor centre as a "crucial step" to protecting the internationally important habitats and wildlife of Spurn National Nature Reserve.
He continues: “Tens of thousands of people already visit Spurn. "The site has fantastic wildlife but in some cases it is vulnerable to disturbance. The ability to engage with as many people as possible will help us get the message across to them.
"Since the tidal surge in December, 2013, washed away a large part of the peninsula, access to the point by private vehicle has ceased.
“Spurn has become an increasingly hazardous place to visit and keeping people safe is another reason why better visitor facilities are essential.
"Also, people visiting an iconic site like Spurn expect good facilities, to ensure they have an informative, enjoyable and comfortable visit.
"At busy times, people park all along the Spurn road verge, which creates further hazards and inconvenience to locals and tourists alike.”
The first drop-in session run at the Blue Bell Café in September was disrupted by a group of vocal objectors who did not agree with the chosen location for the visitor centre.
Says Peter:" “We have been informed by local people and tourists alike that they are supportive of our plans, but the level of hostility shown by the objectors to anybody who expresses these opinions in public has meant less people are making their views known.
"While we understand some of those in the local community do not agree with our plans, we feel it has been unfair for visitors who may have travelled a long distance to enjoy their day at Spurn to be confronted in this way.”
The trust says its research indicates that 64 per cent of people would welcome visitor centre facilities.
Picture: Salt Architects, Beverley