Saturday, February 20, 2016

Visitor Centre at Spurn soon to be determined by the planning process.

I'm conscious that's it's almost a month since I last put out a Blog, a month that's been a bit hectic to say the least. I'm back on Islay at present , but will soon need to be away for another short period.  Set against all this has been the announcements today relating to arrangements associated with a deal for us to have a reformed basis of membership with the European Union and for the UK to vote on our continuing membership or otherwise on 23rd June.  Changes indeed.

Running parallel to all of this, and of particular portent to many, are the final throes of both the application and objection process associated with the Visitor Centre  at Spurn.  This has gone by so quickly and certainly my own commitments have meant I've not been up to date with events throughout the last two-three months. Previous recent posts can be viewed by referring to Labels opposite and more historical entries are available too.

Perhaps the most immediate change to note is that the communications tower for ABP associated with monitoring the shipping offshore and in the Humber  has been withdrawn from the proposal.  Whilst no official information appears to be available the withdrawal from the proposal is thought to be linked to campaigning about its possible effects on migrant birds, its visual intrusion and various, as yet undisclosed, political aspects.

The closing date for objections is Monday, 22nd February., although the application details ( 1400 hours ) have now been taken down. As this possibly means the process has been closed early I'm not sure what to advise other than to adopt the solution I fell back on (see below ).I confess to having left things to the last minute because of other matters and was somewhat alarmed to discover the cut off point was so close. Whilst in some respects this was because of other personal matters taking precedence, I also became conscious that my disquiet regarding the application was growing despite reading a lot of associated material that, in effect, should have been allaying concerns. I have now registered my opposition to the proposal after a lot of thinking about it. There are site management issues to address since the breach occurred, but I'm not convinced erecting a big Visitor Centre and attempting to attract increasing numbers of visitors is what is good for the site.  Ironically I had problems registering on the Planning Dept website ( a warning against leaving things to the last minute!! ) but hopefully I've managed to arrive at a solution by submitting it through Customer Services (  ) as an Urgent Communication and asking them to forward it to the planner concerned ( Mrs Abbas ). I did receive a dated /timed receipt.

Details of my objection are as follows;

Dear Mrs Abba
Ref 15/03947 /PLF Erection of Visitor Centre at Kilnsea, East Yorkshire.
May I register my opposition to the above application and provide additional comments below. Besides being employed professionally in conservation for most of my working life I first started visiting Spurn in the late 1950's and so am conversant with the various changes over the years.
Whilst I acknowledge the management challenges which face the YWT LTD relating to Spurn since the breach in the peninsula I feel the current proposal to construct a large Visitor Centre and accompanying approaches for visitor management facilities are entirely inappropriate. I have given due consideration to these matters over several months but, finally, feel that the proposal will not lead to an enhancement of the wildlife value of the area , but quite the opposite. Forefront in our minds must be that the area is unique, carries various designations ( Ramsar, SPA, SSSI, SAC and NNR ) and the requirements, in order to retain the very substance upon which such designations are based, must be the primary concern and objective expressed within any future provisions for the area. Sadly, an examination of the proposal and an evaluation of the implications arising from the contents lead one to conclude quite the opposite is likely.The recent "blind" expressions of support , bereft of any evidence to justify the situation, do little to clarify matters other than to suspect such are a product of an orchestrated attempt to improve the numbers of submissions in which "support" is mentioned.
Claims that the future proposals are aimed at wildlife protection and enhancement are erroneous if examined against some of the data associated with wader roosts which has emerged recently. Such points, and many other linked to the wildlife heritage of the site and its contribution it makes to current bird research, have been exhaustively dealt with by other submissions , the contents of which I endorse utterly, but instead of repeating such information I would wish to dwell on the following.
I feel the visitor statistics quoted or sought for by the YWT Ltd are wildly optimistic. However, of more concern is that, if realised , they would lead, not to any improvement of wildlife communities, but a deterioration. Research has shown that visitors to any formal facility, whether a Visitor Centre or even a car park, are unlikely to move very far from that location. A significant proportion of visitors to the proposed Centre would undoubtedly then move southwards to view "the breach" area and , in so doing, provide disturbance to the crucial feeding and roosting area for waders which extends from the Tank Blocks area to the Warren. If the upper limit of visitors could ever be realised this concentrated "footfall" would be deleterious to the overall area. The concentration of visitors is being advocated and directed at an area of value, of restricted extent and is likely to encourage the informal distribution of visitors and an associated diminution of value, which runs counter to the declared objectives upon which the proposal is supposedly based..
Since the breach many people would agree that better visitor management is required, not least from the point of view of safety. However, expressed preferences by any managing organization are not necessarily subscribed to by visitors and indiscriminate access developing by the increase in attendance being sought for would be a threat to the very fabric of an area the Trust is pledged to protect and improve. Promoting the Visitor Centre as a major facility is erroneous in its thinking as precious little is then available for visitors to do afterwards, whatever might be developed, as only a small proportion are likely to elect to walk to the Point. A more modest development based on the Blue Bell would be preferable and provide for what I believe would be a more realistic level of visitor traffic.. Offered predictions that the area is under threat from future inundation cannot be accompanied by any firm timescale for obvious reasons. Dismissing the idea is illogical as an inundation event might drastically affect the more general area and the road access to the proposed Centre with concomitant effects on visitor numbers. If a really imaginative proposal was under consideration then a "Gateway " development at the Kilnsea Wetlands, where footpath networks could assist in diluting the concentrated effect of visitors, might be preferred. The stubborn adherence to the Spurn Visitor Centre providing an all encompassing answer is driven by a need to generate funds via the provision of parking facilities at the potential expense and loss of wildlife value due the concentration of visitor traffic.
In summary I feel the whole scenario needs a drastic rethink and that the management needs of the NNR should come first, with visitor facilities being a secondary element, not being seen as the means by which funds can be raised for a site whose fabric and value will diminish as a result. The primary objective can be achieved in my view by a much more modest provision, which I'm persuaded would adequately ensure the retention of the wildlife value of the site, not by providing an inappropriate edifice which has the potential to become a white elephant, but have disastrous consequences in the meantime.
May I raise what might best be described as a quasi-legal point? The Eon financial support for the Visitor Centre proposal is a product of that company's Community Fund. The funds were granted as recompense to the community for disruption and visual intrusion associated with the company's own industrial developments. Given that the communities of both Kilnsea and Easington are adamantly opposed to the development of the Visitor Centre and the intrusion, in a variety of ways its presence could have on the area, does it not suggest the offer of support to the YWT by Eon flies in the face of the spirit and intent of the core principles of the Fund and, as such, should be challenged ?
May I thank you for your consideration of the above and may I apologise for the somewhat unconventional means of its registration to the process. I would draw your attention also to the various Blogs which have been issued on the subject on the web site and encourage your reference to these if time allows.