Sunday, July 19, 2015

Public meeting last Friday re the proposed Spurn Visitor Centre.

As quite a number of people have read the posts I've put out on this issue I thought it only fair to give a summarized report on the proceedings that occurred last Friday. The various comments below are based on what I have received from friends, as I wasn't at the actual meeting. It is hoped that a full record of the meeting will shortly be available on YouTube.  Over one hundred and fifty people attended the meeting, which was chaired by the local MP. In summary it was felt that, finally, the concerns of the local people, all of whom were in opposition to the scheme, had reached their target source . There are clearly a number of issues that the YWT is still felt to be unclear on and that require further clarification ( see below ).

Two major aspects need airing very firmly as it is hoped both the media and officials and Trustees of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust will see this post and, indeed, officials at Eon too. Whilst I share many of the concerns about the need and viability of a Centre I would hope the following would be seen as an attempt to set out a current picture of the situation in a wholly independent manner from someone who has concerns and an interest, but who has diligently gone through the various material made available from each party.

The conclusions that the media drew ( both print and television )  of the attitudes of Kilnsea and Easington residents is flawed in the extreme and derives, one imagines, from a desire to generate a storyline that catches the public's eye!  Local residents have no problems in welcoming visitors to their villages and to Spurn, but they do adamantly oppose the erection of a new Visitor Centre.  It is not a question of "nimbyism", as has been suggested, but of the insertion into the local landscape of something that is felt to be unnecessary and highly likely to fail.

The recent past has seen a measure of bad feeling and mistrust develop on all sides. It is hoped that the meeting has dispelled much of what existed and that it provided an opportunity to air such complaints and misgivings on the one side and for the constraints within which the Trust feels it has developed the initiative to be better described. Clearly some of the "Public Relations" approaches have been wanting and some of the resultant reactions have perhaps been seen to be inaccurately focused.

It has to be accepted that the storm surge and resultant break through of the peninsula generated immediate difficulties in a management context for the YWT and for a visiting public too, who no longer had an easy means of access down the penninsula.  Spurn is a difficult enough site anyway, is very much out on a limb, has lost the obvious means of income generation to the Trust formerly achieved through access charges and , consequently, faces problems with the sourcing of the necessary monies required for management and maintenance work. It is not a case of amending what applied previously. There is a firm body of opinion that visitor traffic will not reach what was achieved previously and income forecasts and, therefore, the viability of a new Visitor Centre, funded or not, will quite soon reach a point of abject failure.  Optimism borne out of desperation is not a sensible path to follow!

There is a firm body of opinion locally that the Blue Bell premises should be further developed and serve as the centre of operations for the Trust , but set out on a more modest scale compared to the proposed Visitor Centre.. Besides the aspects of the presence of a new structure being eliminated by this proposal it is felt the economies of scale achieved via this route would be more than adequate to cover costs and would also allow some of the funding to be diverted into management work.  One of the sticking points appears to be the  "estimated lifespan" of the property given the ever encroaching threat of coastal erosion. The Shoreline Management Plan advises that the Kilnsea Floodbank will not be maintained in the future and that, ultimately, the Blue Bell premises will be inundated or require to be demolished.  Estimates of this timescale differ. The YWT has recently extended its own estimate from ten to twenty years and, on this being referred to at the meeting, an Environment Agency official produced details of a prediction of 60 years, which rather threw the discussion into disarray. It must be remembered that, at whatever point the boundary of erosion extends to the Blue Bell, the road leading to the proposed Visitor Centre is just outside those premises and would itself be "under siege". The YWT countered this concern by saying that the proposed Visitor Centre is designed to be moved ( not an easy task nor cheap ) but, when asked said they had no idea where to, which has hardly generated confidence within community thinking.

Whilst it would seem the Trust is adamant its proposal will stand scrutiny and Eon appears confident its decision to fund the project is still grounded in good sense, the overwhelming feeling locally is still that the whole concept is seriously flawed and that the investment for new facilities should be minimized and concentrated on the Blue Bell. The latter's future is limited, but so is everywhere else under consideration!!! At least the various representatives have met and provided a basis upon which future discussion might be based. It's a bit difficult to predict what the next steps might now be but the local community remain resolute in their opposition and will continue to communicate such to all parties.