IS the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust putting the interests of its own income stream above those of wildlife and its welfare? This is a concern of Professor Richard Boon. Below are the comments he and others have submitted to East Riding council's planning department about the trust's controversial Spurn visitor centre proposal. A decision on the project is due to be made on January 26.
Prof Richard Boon (Holmpton): The YWT seems to be attempting to bully the planning committee by suggesting that none of the alternative sites that have been put forward is feasible, and that therefore the proposed site is an-all or-nothing option.This is simply not the case.It seems that the only feature lacked by alternative sites is that they do not provide the trust with complete control of visitor access - and therefore income. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that profit-making is what is driving the proposal, at the expense of both visitor safety and protection of the natural environment.This is after all the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, not the Yorkshire Business Trust.
* Richard Boon is emeritus professor in the School of Drama, Music and Screen at the University of Hull.
Andrew Mason (Sproatley): I am completely in favour of the construction of a visitor centre at Spurn National Nature Reserve. This new modern and fit-for-purpose centre will be a base for Yorkshire Wildlife Trust staff, secure local jobs and allow far more engagement with visitors than the current arrangement at Spurn. Since the tidal surge of 2013, Spurn has a wash-over that can become very dangerous on certain high tides. The trust as landowner, needs to be able to manage the site effectively and make visitors aware of the dangers as well as the wonders of this amazing place. An opportunity to welcome school groups and cater for a much wider audience will also be greatly enhanced by this new visitor centre. If people have a good experience of Spurn and the environment they are far more likely to look after it. By having a modern visitor centre, the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust will be able to manage Spurn so that wildlife can thrive and people can enjoy this unique place without harming it.
Steve Holliday (Cramlington): "I think it ridiculous that the YWT should be wasting its members' funds by submitting another application for a visitor centre which is virtually unchanged from the original application. The most obvious issue to be addressed is the location and, until the YWT takes a more sensible approach I feel I must object yet again. The proposed location is in a very vulnerable position due to the high risk of flooding from rising sea levels. The site is also one of the most iconic birdwatching locations in Yorkshire, loved by many thousands of visitors for over 50 years. It would be akin to placing a burger van in the centre circle at Wembley! The forecast visitor levels (if correct) will bring a significant increase in vehicle traffic through Kilnsea, something which is not wanted. There are also other better options for a visitor centre e.g. near the Kilnsea Wetland car-park (thus keeping traffic out of the village). A similar situation works very well on Holy Island, Northumberland. Or perhaps an existing site could be enlarged. How about the four- bed house next to the Blue Bell café which is currently available for only £170k?
Dezra Davies (Rastrick): Everyone who loves Spurn thinks that the welfare of wildlife is the only issue - and the proposals will disrupt everything there. A visitor centre is not needed. There are already toilets and a cafe with an info centre, What else could people possibly need? People are beginning to think that the YWT is just after making more and more money from people by building a big cafe and shop which is upsetting. As a trust member myself, I am shocked. I would also like to know what will become of the Blue Bell cafe and existing toilets? I was at Spurn for two days at the weekend and, of the many many people we spoke to, none wanted the visitor centre, and I am sure none of the wildlife would have voted for it either!
Mr Peter Grant (Swanland):Tens of thousands of migrating birds make use of the unique natural habitat of Spurn. this safe haven provides food and water to sustain birds as they continue their arduous journey to all parts of the world. There is a sinister business undertone to this proposal which smacks of footfall, entrance fees and turnover.
Tracy Irwin (Cusworth):I strongly object to this, the second application of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust's proposal to build a new visitor centre and car park at Spurn. As a member of both the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and a Friend of Spurn, I am in disbelief that YWT is spending my hard earned membership subscription on this proposal. Spurn is a fragile environment and should be treated with the sensitivity it deserves. The utmost consideration must be given to the wildlife that relies on Spurn's unique habitat. To build a visitor centre on this scale inevitably brings more people, thus having an impact on the local roads which would not be able to cope with large amounts of traffic which will be brought to the area. To tear up a natural habitat to build a bigger car park is a travesty. Not to mention the disturbance to the birds particularly during breeding and migration seasons. There are more than enough places around Yorkshire and the wider area which have lovely all singing, all dancing visitor centres with their cafes and gift shops for people to spend their money in. I am not against this type of facility, indeed, in some cases they are appropriate and provide excellent places for the public to engage with wildlife. But not at Spurn which is special. By its very remoteness it provides a place to think, to absorb and appreciate its beauty and the wonderful wildlife that is there. It ought to be kept that way. If YWT insist that there are enhancements to be made then the existing Blue Bell café and car park is the place.
Peter Oldham (Southport): Yorkshire Wildlife Trust does not read its own website which states: 'Spurn is truly a site for all seasons, but arguably one of its best wildlife highlights is the spring and autumn spectacle of bird migration. Due to the exposed and recognisable coastal location, visible migration can be often be seen in action as birds head south along the peninsula. On some days you may see falls of birds measured in their thousands.' This is what they say, yet they want to put a visitor centre right in the middle of the migratory route and this will also put a blot o, the landscape of Spurns heritage site The heritage coast consists of a long, curving hook of shingle and sand arcing into the mouth of the Humber River. The coast is a stopover point for thousands of migrating birds in the spring and autumn, and a special observatory has been set up to allow bird-lovers to monitor their feathered friends.The area has been recognised as a Nature Reserve by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, and visitors can expect to see seals and butterfly species in addition to the birds. So if they say it is a spectacular heritage site why damage it it by making it 'touristy'?
Lizzy Bradbury (Warwick): I am not opposed to a visitor centre at all - it would attract new visitors and revenue and that would help keep Spurn funded.HOWEVER... where it is being proposed is ludicrous! Right in the very area that makes Spurn the amazing place it is. Yes, I understand that it would be a good location, geographically, for visitors to get to all the viewing area. And it would look very pretty. But the reasons why it should not be there far outweigh this. Please work alongside the people who make Spurn great, don't fight them.
Tim Pickles (Ellerker): I think I understand the reservations declared by those who live close to the proposed development. Nevertheless I feel that, in the long run, the proposed development will benefit Spurn as a wildlife sanctuary. I know the 'SpringWatch Generation' is regarded as a derogatory term by older and more dedicated birders who have been travelling to Spurn for donkeys years - but, whether you like it or not, its members are the future, and they are the people who will put money into conservation. I say this as someone who has been birdwatching since the early 70s. I support the development.
Mr Michael Brookes (Walkington) :I strongly support the revised proposal. I have been a regular visitor to Spurn for four decades. I am a long-term member of the YWT, the RSPB and the BTO. I am a volunteer with the BTO at Yorkshire Water's Tophill Low Reserve. I do not believe that a visitor centre will contribute to flooding problems, damage the wildlife or create unnecessary traffic, for the following reasons. Flooding will always present risks at Spurn, especially in the light of climate change. This issue has been addressed in the revised application to present the best possible way forward. The wild nature of the environment, including the influence of the sea, ensures and safeguards its diversity of wildlife. A visitor centre of this size will not threaten Spurn's wildlife, its cetaceans, seabirds, flora and the spectacular autumn migrations - as currently witnessed by many visitors. Nor do I envisage a large increase in visitor traffic and disturbance to the wildlife or residents. Spurn always has an influx of visitors when rare birds are reported, and is otherwise relatively quiet because of its geographical location. There is no reason why this should change dramatically, although there may be an increase in visiting school parties - something we must encourage if we are to involve young people in the future protection of our wildlife and natural environment. Spurn deserves to have a visitor centre that is fitting for a nationally important wildlife site. The current resources are entirely inadequate. Bempton has one and soon there will be one at Tophill Low - these two reserves, together with Spurn, are the East Riding's 'flagship' wildlife reserves. Visitors expect a welcome, facilities and interpretation, as we have seen with the long-awaited new visitor centre at Stonehenge. The centre at Spurn should be viewed as an asset rather than a problem. We must decide on the best prospect for our rural economy - tourism, and making the most of our superb attractions in the East Riding's 'nature triangle', or developments such as drilling for oil and gas, which is short-term and potentially harmful. Spurn is a 'jewel in the crown' of the country's wildlife sites, and it needs a visitor centre to match it. I do respect and understand the needs and wishes of local residents, but in this case I believe the merits of the application outweigh its disadvantages.