A wildlife charity has warned that it will lodge a legal appeal if controversial proposals for a visitor centre at an isolated landmark on the Yorkshire coast are turned down.
The warning came after councillors deferred a decision on the proposed new visitor centre at Spurn Point for a site visit at a meeting in Beverley yesterday.
Residents, who have been campaigning against the scheme, insist the £900,000 centre is in the wrong location, following the tidal surge in 2013 and the loss of the road to the point. Dave Tucker, who spoke on behalf of objectors, questioned why the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust wanted to build on a flood plain that was submerged by 6ft of water two-and-a-half years ago.
He said: “I am hoping councillors will come to realise that building a visitor centre on a high risk flood area is ludicrous when there are other options that are safer. If this gets through and somebody loses their life, how will everybody feel?”
He added: “We are not saying no to the visitor centre – it’s location. The risk to life is huge – the RNLI has already rescued people off the peninsula, when they have been cut off by the tide. Build the visitor centre, but move it further down the road. Everyone would support it.”
Mr Tucker told the meeting that 93 per cent of Kilnsea residents objected to the location of the centre, which includes a classroom, café and a car park, as well as 90 per cent of businesses, including the Crown and Anchor pub and the village shop, the parish council, Spurn Bird Observatory and the Yorkshire Naturalists Union. More than 1,200 have written or made online objections, against some 150 who have sent in letters of support.
The Environment Agency has lifted its objection, but said the site at the Triangle Field “remains at a substantial risk of flooding”. Mr Tucker asked councillors to refuse the application and recommend it to be relocated to nearby Southfield Farm, Kilnsea Wetlands or the Blue Bell, where the trust has a cafe.
But councillors Jackie Cracknell and Lyn Healing won unanimous backing from colleagues after proposing a site visit. Coun Cracknell said she was concerned about the proposals to build on a Site of Special Scientific Interest, the extra traffic it would bring and the upset the development would cause local people.
But speaking afterwards, the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s chief executive Rob Stoneman said there was “no reason” for councillors to turn down the plans.
He said: “We have an officer’s recommendation (for approval) and we have met local, national and international policy. There is no reason for the council to turn it down. Obviously it would go to appeal, but I really hope it doesn’t come to that. We respect the democratic process.”
He said there would only be a problem when a high tide coincided with a storm, and said: “We have said the site will shut on a yellow and red warning. There will not be anyone on site when there is a possibility of flooding.”
Mr Stoneman added the trust had no car park or facilities for the 25,000 visitors it currently gets, including 500 to 600 children.
The new centre will cater for up to 60,000, but Mr Stoneman doubts it will get as many.
He said: “I am still not quite sure what the objections are about. When you see the objections round locations and they are suggesting another flood-prone location in the middle of the village, I don’t get the logic. They have said this is going to destroy wildlife, but we are a wildlife trust.”