Monday, January 26, 2015

Further thoughts on the Visitor Centre at Spurn.

A week ago I wrote about the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust's proposal for a visitor centre at Spurn. Given I live on an island off the NW coast of Scotland why should I be interested?  Well, as I pointed out in the first article, in addition to birding around Barnsley, most of my early birding was actually completed at Spurn. I'm sure I'll be able to visit again, but now is the time to " put something back in, set against all the wonderful memories of previous times", hence my concerns being expressed on this Blog.  It's a magical place and immensely important for migration studies and it's significance, for a whole variety of reasons, has resulted in it being designated as a National Nature Reserve which, as the landowner, is managed by the Trust.

In February, 2013 the peninsula suffered damage due to high tides and further damage followed in March of that year. Previously,in August , 2012 the lifeboat families had been moved from the Point as their means of access along the road down the Peninsula could no longer be assured. On the 5th December, 2013 a huge tidal surge caused a breach in the peninsula and adjoining areas and has since been the basis of a need to seriously reassess how a variety of matters can now operate and proceed.  As owner, the YWT has clearly been central to all this with there being a need to appraise management objectives, visitor facilities etc etc!!!  In part has come the conclusion to build a Visitor Centre.

Spurn is a unique place with limited options for any sort of development. The Trust has declared its preferred option for the location of the new Centre and has gained sponsorship from Eon relating to its costs. There is still a long way to go in terms of all this being finally determined......... and this is one of the central  reasons for my expressing my personal opinions at this stage.  This is the time when peoples' reactions should be made known be it in support or in opposition. Ideally alternatives can be put forward for consideration too.

I feel the currently promoted location is entirely inappropriate as it would bring an unnecessary concentration of people into an area that should not suffer such pressure or, indeed, is able to absorb such pressure. The management of people at key times around the proposed location , e.g. Bank Holidays, cannot fall back on any easily available alternatives and could lead to overspill conditions and habitat degradation.

But rather than look at nitty-gritty aspects of the location question let's take a wider view of the situation. That a Visitor Centre would be a benefit is in no doubt.  Given that Spurn and Kilnsea are a linear entity then the siting problem is perhaps a little more acute than if the area involved was a neat rounded or even square shape. What might be the ideal in such circumstances?  The role of a visitor centre is as a scene setter, a facility provider and a place where visitors can go in order to obtain information and plan their day. We can argue about all this until the cows come home but , at some point, the nettle must be grasped and suggestions made about where such a facility might be located.   YWT have made their pitch, now it should be your turn!!  It's pointless continually beefing about what you feel is wrong and leaving it to someone else to put forward alternative suggestions. If you feel something is wrong then you should also have similar feelings about what is right in my view, otherwise the whole consideration process is pointless.  So, after sounding off , what do I feel?

  • I believe the central Visitor Centre ought to be associated with Kilnsea Wetlands. All visitors pass by the area, footpaths to other key areas radiate from it and the wetland reserve is the very beginning of the wildlife "experience" to be gained from a visit to the area.
  • Several current or potential circular footpath routes exist or could be developed from this location which would reduce the concentration of visitors at a single point farther south. Views of the sea or the Humber are adequately provided for at several locations and wildlife viewing facilities are present and at the nearby Beacon Ponds as well .
  • I do not believe any built environment project should be allowed south of Cubley's Farm, in fact consideration needs to be given to a barrier at some suitable point which limits "exploratory " access and all the chaos that so often ensues.
  • I believe a car park should be built in the Well Field, which will compliment the facilities at the adjacent scrape where a hide is located.. With the existing facilities (including toilets ) at the Blue Bell Car Park the overall facility provision for cars in the area should be catered for at periods of peak usage.
  • the Blue Bell property can provide the base at which modest catering facilities are provided  ( as now ) along with the departure point ( as now ) for the vehicular tours that I suspect form a critical part of the Trust's thinking. Car parking is available immediately alongside these and various footpath routes radiate away from the location to the sea, south to the Warren along the shore and northwards up Beacon Lane.
  • the means to reach the Point by YWT vehicle is provided for and the Lighthouse they have under renovation can be a further focal point for both information giving and modest facility provision. Such can be reached on foot too, given obvious safeguards and advice are followed, with parking facilities being used at the Well Field facility.

In my opinion all this achieves similar outcomes to the current proposal with the minimum of habitat loss, a more than adequate spread of visitor presence and  no reduction in their "experience" on the day.  I'm sure there will be reasons why some people feel the above suggestions are unacceptable  (notably the YWT I would guess ),  indeed , there may be reasons why they couldn't happen,  BUT, in the process, the debate is open and active which is what we have to aim for.  I get the impression that some people feel the current process is little more than a fait accompli and that the Trust are hostile to opposition or new suggestions. Given planning procedures and the like it's not in their gift to consider such anyway and much can be gained by new ideas being submitted into the thinking process.  I would be surprised if they didn't welcome such an open approach as real benefit might be derived from it. We've to recognize too that the attraction of a brand new all singing, all dancing visitor centre can be a very persuasive venture. I'm not even sure I'm convinced either of the real necessity of such if I'm honest, but that's down to personal feelings of nostalgia I guess. Incidentally ,the contention that 70,000 visitors per annum have previously passed the entrance gate to the reserve and would now need to be "managed" more actively than previously requires critical examination too.

This is not something to be rushed through which, in part, is catered for by the petition raised by Gareth Picton (  Say No to YWT's Spurn Visitor Centre location. )  which you might care to consider signing.  It would be churlish to ignore the details provided of the YWT's proposal against which you should also consider your preferences and actions. This can be found at  (Spurn Development Project )

And, finally, this is what it's all about!   If you've ever been to Spurn,  please take a few moments to consider what you feel is the correct way forward and make your opinions known. Comments are welcomed on this Blog if you wish to use the facility.

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