Fingers are pointed in row over visitor base at Spurn

IT’S a unique landmark and for centuries its greatest threat has been from the sea.

Looking north along Spurn Point from the top of the 150ft high lighthouse - the shadow of which can be see
Looking north along Spurn Point from the top of the 150ft high lighthouse - the shadow of which can be see

An isolated finger of land jutting into the Humber estuary, some would argue Spurn Point is the nearest Yorkshire has to an East Coast wilderness.

But judging from the passion of some of the 150 people at a public meeting at Easington yesterday, some feel a new danger is owner Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s plans for a £900,000 visitor centre funded by energy giant E.ON, whose vast Humber Gateway wind farm looms off Spurn.

The charity claims improving its facilities across East Yorkshire will be worth £20m over 25 years to the tourism economy, helping it to carry on its work to protect nature habitats in Yorkshire.

And it argues it needs to do more to protect and inform visitors since the tidal surge of 2013 swept away a chunk of road, meaning people have to walk the three miles to the tip, crossing a beach which is washed over on the highest tides.

Visitor numbers have halved to just 20,000 since then, but YWT says the new facilities will accommodate 60,000 – although chief executive Rob Stoneman admitted 40,000 was more likely.

The centre, earmarked for a site close to the gates to the reserve, in an area known as the Triangle, has views across the Humber and out to the North Sea where E.ON’s 73 turbines stand and will include a classroom that can be used by school groups, a café and car park.

But some residents say it will be a “carbuncle”, placed on a habitat rich meadow, and insist it is in the wrong location. If it should go anywhere, some believe it should go to the Blue Bell further down the road, where YWT already has offices, while Spurn Bird Observatory, wants it to go in another area called the Well Field.

Yesterday both YWT and E.ON came in for a rough ride, with residents complaining E.ON had not consulted them and were giving “just short of £1m for a project that the community doesn’t want”. Former parish council chairman Ian Smith said: “We are looking at turbines we don’t want – now you are 
trying to foist a visitor centre on us.”

Another said it would be a white elephant – and people who journeyed down the long, winding road from Hull, would visit once and not return.

Another said despite its name Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, “wildlife had hardly had a mention” and questioned whether the feet of extra visitors could threaten to destroy what they came to see.

However, Mr Stoneman insisted the last thing they wanted to do was to disturb wildlife, adding: “We know the more people come to sites like this the more likely they will look after the wildlife.”

Without investing, Spurn had a grim future, he claimed.

There were pleas for a 
rethink, but E.ON spokesman Jon Beresford said afterwards they had consulted unitary and parish councils. He said it 
was YWT’s responsibility 
where the centre was and the meeting did not necessarily reflect the views of all the community.

But local MP Graham Stuart suggested lessons could be learned from the “pretty savage local opposition” to ensure projects were consulted on at a community level.