Thursday, 26 January 2017


Under pressure - YWT director Terry Smithson (right) is quizzed by the media
STORMY scenes followed today's crunch meeting to determine Yorkshire Wildlife Trust's controversial application to build a £900,000 visitor centre at Spurn.

Members of East Riding Council's planning committee were in the firing line after they voted 8-4 in favour of the project at a meeting held at County Hall, Beverley.

Following  the hour-long debate, there were angry shouts of "disgraceful" and "shame"  from about 50 opponents of the scheme who had watched proceedings from the public gallery.

The ructions continued outside when YWT operation director Terry Smithson struggled to make himself heard above the clamour as he was interviewed by Paul Murphy of BBC regional news programme Look North.

The trust hopes the visitor centre will generate revenue by serving refreshments and by  imposing charges for use of the 77-space car park that will be attached to the building.

It also seeks  to stimulate interest in wildlife and enhance tourism  within a safer environment than exists at present.

Up to 25 full- and part-time jobs could be created, with volunteer rangers being tasked to ensure that visitors and their dogs do not trample on to sites of greatest wildlife sensitivity.

Old concrete military structures will be removed and used as foundation hardcore for the building.

Arguing the pros and cons - three of those who attended the meeting
 But opponents - including birdwatchers and villagers - believe the centre will blight the heritage coast, disturb birds and other wildlife and be at risk from flooding.

Prior to the debate, councillors heard that  submissions to the planning department numbered 589 in favour and 2,827against.

The comments are listed in full on the planning section pages of the council's website.

But it was clear that many  of the committee were swayed by the reports  of planning officers, which recommended approval, and by  the fact that key statutory consultees such as the RSPB and Natural England had raised no objections, subject to certain conditions being met.

Before their discussion, the committee  also heard from Mr Smithson, who spoke in favour, and from opponents Prof Andrew Hanby and ward councillor David Tucker.

Mr Smithson maintained  that the centre would be an "innovative building which will improve the landscape".

He said adjacent shrub planting would be "sensitive" and the project would bring "parking improvements"

The director acknowledged that the trust's communications with the community had been lacking but insisted: "We are prepared to make a huge effort to repair this."

Prof Hanby expressed surprise that so relatively  few had ventured  support for the scheme given that the YWT has 40,000 members. He also issued a reminder that the application site  has flooded nine times since 1953.

He noted that at similar nature reserves such as the ones at Cley and Titchwell, visitor centres were "at their approach, not in their midst".

Coun Tucker said claims that the building would be a "temporary structure" that would "nestle into the environment" were "not true".

He saw no reason why the trust's proposal was worthy of consent given that the council had always refused previous applications on the grounds of flood risk or visual intrusion.

He continued: "If the trust were to withdraw this application in favour of submitting a new one at a more appropriate location, I am sure it would have the overwhelming support of the community."

Committee member Coun Bryan Pearson described Spurn as a "wild and woolly place" where he used to fish in the days when Barry Spence was site warden.

"It does not need a visitor centre at this particular location."he declared. "It will stick out like a sore thumb."

He was critical of proposals to demolish existing military buildings, noting that redundant pill boxes "provides habitat for all sorts of creatures"

Coun Tony Galbraith, an RSPB member,  said he gave a "lot of weight" to the comments of both the bird charity and English Nature, neither of whom had objected.

He insisted: "In this day and age, people need a visitor centre if they are to benefit fully from their visit."

Coun John Whittle also supported the proposal, observing that closer management would enhance safety to the benefit of many, including the elderly.

Coun Philip Davison expressed doubts whether the car park would be sufficient to accommodate large numbers of visitors on a sunny day  in summer.

"This will lead to parking pressures elsewhere," he maintained. "There will be traffic chaos."

"This facility wont offer anything that does not already exist. Why not simply enhance the Blue Bell cafe?"

Coun Shelagh  Finlay said she could support such a project in somewhere like Bridlington but not within open countryside in  the  wild beauty of Spurn.

"The issues  with flooding and visual intrusion have not been resolved,"she observed. "This will do nothing to generate  tourism."

Coun David  Rudd said there were "good planning reasons" why the application should be approved.

He  insisted : "It can only enhance tourism, and the car parking will be fine."

The meetings heard that, as a planning condition,  a formal liaison committee was to be set up in an attempt to to end rancour.between supporters and opponents of the project.

Committee chairman Coun Phyllis Pollard voted against approval when an earlier application was considered in July but said she supported the revised scheme.

"I hate to say it but I quite like the building,"she said. "It has been designed to cope with flooding, and I hope it will offer something exciting."

But Coun Pollard was critical of the trust's failure to reach out to the community to dispel their

She continued: "Something has gone badly wrong with this application.

"A lot of bridge-building will be required to resolve the antagonism that has arisen."

The YWT has not revealed when it intends to start work on the project or which company will be the main contractor.

The centre will not look over the estuarial mud flats to Grimsby and Cleethorpes, but  towards the Humber Gateway windfarm operated by E.ON who have pledged a substantial contribution to the construction costs. 

The planning committee voted eight-four in favour of the scheme

1 comment:

  1. Since when have YWT ever listened to the people who live and work in the area, generally just run roughshod over everyone, bit like this proposal, huge local opposition, but agree with remote UK bodies and they are going to destroy heritage that shows how we as a country stood up to those who wanted to impose their ideas on us as a nation Is there a parallel ?