Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Outsiders update on the Spurn Visitor Centre proposal !

You could be excused for thinking the Visitor Centre proposal at Spurn had somehow disappeared into the ether, but you'd be wrong.  I suspect the silence is simply a product of efforts now being put into preparations that will eventually lead up to the planning application being submitted, on mopping up on PR problems that remain, and the sheer hard work that accompanies a major project being brought into being! In that context a YWT Project Manager has now been appointed. And it's also the family holiday season after all with all that that means for staff absences.

So nothing sinister, untoward or even unexpected.  The public meeting came and went, raised various problems and questions that doubtless will be being dealt with but, above all, provided the platform that now allows the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust to move forward in assembling the necessary details for the planning process. Few in attendance were convinced.  The designs have now been revealed  ( I still don't like the palisades!! ), the intent announced and I guess things will now enter into a bit of a vacuum until the late autumn.

Now, I believe the amount of opposition will grow as the usual visits to Spurn of birdwatchers from far and wide takes place this autumn in the hope of connecting with some notable drift migrants. This should be reflected in the signature total of the petition. That's to be expected and, doubtless, people will fall into two camps, those who are adamantly opposed or those who are pretty sanguine about the whole affair. Virtually all local residents are thoroughly against the proposal and their position is unlikely to change. Due to there being no compelling case for actual destruction or disturbance of wildlife ( a view not everyone will agree with, but it is difficult to construct a data-based case on those grounds ) , hence the reason why the RSPB and Natural England are sitting in the back seats of the stalls!

My view remains unchanged.  I genuinely worry the proposal has no future, to the extent that there should be decommissioning provisions within any planning permission that might be granted.  Jono Leadley ( YWT ) has been very helpful in going through the general background details and kindly set out the link on this Blog where such information could be accessed. Spurn between November and March inclusive is a "winter desert" and visitor attendance is minimal to the extent one doubts routine costs would even be covered. The first year's  "high" months of summer might see greater numbers of visitors initially, but will there be a repeat footfall, and will income sufficiently offset the barren times of winter?   Spurn sits to the south east of an underpopulated hinterland,  is 30 miles or so from Hull and similarly spaced from resorts to the north.  A glimpse of Withernsea's main street and its bargain stores hardly suggests it will be a productive source of visitors then faced with the prices for parking and Unimog journeys!   This is an exercise in common sense, not revolving on the precise location argument.   I understand the YWT's need to upgrade facilities since the breach and consequent loss of income, but this is not the solution in my view. I'm sure the curiosity factor and promotion of the new facilities to the YWT membership will result in sufficient visitor traffic in the first couple of years. Beyond that , I doubt it , and that's when the rot will set in.  Restricted opening times, periods of closure in winter.......it's all the features of a closing down sale!  Whatever our feelings, the proposal will doubtless move forward to be considered within the planning process given YWT's obvious commitment to the idea.  I still believe a sensible option could be constructed around the Blue Bell complex, even if this can only be envisaged for 10-15 years !

If you have serious doubts about the proposal  this interim period can be used to good effect to put your arguments in order, which is precisely what I suspect the YWT  ( understandably ) will be doing too. Submitting your thoughts to the Planning Authority is a necessary step, although dispatching them off can probably wait until late October when the planning application might first be submitted ?   It's essential this time isn't squandered and that objections are put together so that they can be submitted as soon as the notice of the planning consultation is released.   So, it's essential they don't contain emotional remarks, are factual and have some semblance of argument within them. Simply stating the idea is rubbish is a waste of time!

I recently came across an article in a local group newsletter announcing the new Centre proposal and remarking what a fine idea it was. Well, I suppose such inevitable outpourings can be dismissed as sycophantic nonsense as clearly little thought had gone into the consequences of the Centre's  ( unnecessary ) presence, the feelings of local people, the financial implications or the fact that consideration of an alternative could release major resources for actual conservation work. But such reactions make the point that it's absolutely necessary for everyone to consider the wider implications and not simply fire from the hip and welcome what inevitably would, of course, be a "nice" new centre.

Clearly the situation is in a state of impasse and will inevitably be resolved via the planning process, which is perhaps how such things should proceed anyway. In the meantime, if you have doubts, then please use this time to prepare and honestly set out your opposition to something you believe is wrong.