SURVEYING SPURN in the wake of last December’s devastating tidal surge almost brought tears to Jonathan Leadley’s eyes.
The director of development at Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, which owns the national nature reserve on the east coast, remembers a “scene of unprecedented devastation”.
But the tide is turning on the fortunes of the site after it secured almost £500,000 which will help to improve visitors’ experience and to promote the area.
Mr Leadley, who was moved by the public’s response in the aftermath of the tidal surge, said: “It raises the profile of the fragility of places like Spurn among the local community and visitors to the area and the money will enable us to manage those visitors in a way that keeps them safe and reduces their impact on that fragile environment.
“Out of a very bleak situation we are now looking at something that is going to have a very positive impact on that area.”
Spurn National Nature Reserve is among ten coastal areas which have been given a slice of £8.5m from the government’s Coastal Communities Fund to help create and safeguard 1,400 jobs and aid essential repairs in places affected by the winter storms.
The Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne also announced an extra £3m for the fund to encourage growth and create jobs in coastal towns.
The £498,000 for Spurn will pay towards restoring Matthew’s Lighthouse and nearby gun emplacement, which will be developed into a viewing area, with help from Heritage Lottery funding secured earlier this year. It will also help to run a “safari bus” for visitors after a stretch of road to Spurn was washed away in the tidal surge.
The trust is looking to buy a fleet of bicycles for visitors to use to get to the point. It will use some of the money to promote the area as a destination for nature tourism and plans to recruit new staff including a business development manager and communications officer.
The lighthouse will be restored and converted into an interpretation centre providing accommodation over six floors telling the story of Spurn’s wildlife, maritime heritage, strategic defence role and military history. It will create and safeguard around 77 jobs.
Mr Leadley said the funding: “Will enable us to look after Spurn’s amazing wildlife by improving the visitor facilities available at Spurn National Nature Reserve and support small businesses in promoting the breadth of natural assets that the east coast of Yorkshire has to offer.
“We are excited to build upon our work within the nature tourism sector; bringing more visitors to the area whilst also increasing employment opportunities.”
Other beneficiaries include the RSPB Nature Reserve at Bempton Cliffs, which will use £452,000 to enhance facilities, and Robin Hood’s Bay Youth Hostel which will be redeveloped. Janet Deacon, of Welcome to Yorkshire, said Yorkshire’s seaside towns “have so much to offer.”