Guest blog – Spurn developments by John Lawton

John Lawton Askham Bog, YWT Sept 2011Prof Sir John Lawton FRS is a distinguished ecologist and is the chair of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.

He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1989, awarded a CBE in 1997 and knighted in 2005  for his contributions to ecological science. He has been awarded numerous other national and international science prizes.

John was the last Chairman of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, and a former Chief Executive of the Natural Environment Research Council. He is a passionate natural historian (particularly birds, botany and bugs), and enjoys walking, gardening, cooking and music. He trained as a zoologist at the University of Durham, and subsequently held posts at Oxford and York Universities, and Imperial College London.


Spurn National Nature Reserve was bought by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust in 1959 and has been managed for wildlife ever since. The site is incredibly important for wildlife and is protected to the highest level both nationally and internationally. It is one of the Trust’s most-visited nature reserves with people coming from across both Yorkshire and beyond, for the site’s wildlife (birding in particular), fishing, walking, exploring complex maritime and military heritage, for the beach, and in some cases because it is the end of the road. One of the key tasks faced by the Trust is ensuring people have a safe, informative and enjoyable visit without causing damage or disturbance to the site’s wildlife. The current situation is unsustainable and has a high impact on wildlife.

At its peak, the site attracted up to 70,000 visitors a year, although the figure has reduced in recent years. In December 2013, a colossal tidal surge wreaked havoc along the Humber and elsewhere and destroyed a lot of the infrastructure at Spurn, including the washing away of a long stretch of the road to the point. This has changed Spurn radically meaning there is no public vehicle access to the point at the moment and visitor numbers have fallen to 20,000. High tides often wash across the peninsular and create an island. This is a very hazardous situation and the Trust is working with the Coastguard, the RNLI and others to prioritise visitor safety.

Contrary to what some people may believe, Spurn has been quite built-up over the years and its fairly wild current state is a comparatively recent phenomenon, resulting from the Trust’s ongoing work to remove buildings and re-wild the site together with the loss of the road and consequent actions of the power company removing the poles along the point. Disturbance south of the Warren is lower now as no public vehicles can drive down to the point. Those prepared to walk or joining a Trust tour get the chance to experience Spurn in a much wilder setting than previously.

As early as 1996 a report by Ian Carstairs deemed the existing facilities at Spurn inadequate and stated they should be improved. The Trust put in place a long term plan to seek funding to improve Spurn’s facilities. Finally, in 2013 the opportunity arose and after discussions with the energy company E.ON, an offer of a grant to fund a new visitor centre came along. In conjunction with a Heritage Lottery-funded project to restore and open the Spurn lighthouse, create nature trails and viewpoints, Spurn could finally be getting the facilities it needs to meet visitor expectations and reduce their impact on the National Nature Reserve.

E.ON has been building the Humber Gateway Windfarm off the Spurn coast in recent months. A few years ago when their planning application was submitted, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust expressed a series of major concerns about the potential impacts on wildlife from the proposal. To their credit, E.ON took these concerns very seriously and conducted a lot of work and modifications to ensure any impact would be minimised. The Trust was satisfied with their actions and did not object to this planning application. The Trust supports renewable energy generation in the right place, i.e. where there will be no impact on wildlife, as the threat of climate change to the wildlife of Yorkshire and beyond is massive.

Despite having no obligation to do so, E.ON chose to support three major projects in Holderness and North Lincolnshire – an electric bus, an apprenticeship programme and the Spurn visitor centre. In addition, to put further funding into the local community, they set up a community fund which is open for local organisations to apply to. There was no statutory requirement for E.ON to commit this funding, they simply did it as a goodwill gesture. One early recipient of funding through the E.ON community fund has been the Spurn Bird Observatory who are the Trust’s tenant on site.

Sadly, despite a protracted period of consultation, a group of local people in the immediate vicinity of Spurn have protested very angrily about the plans and have even formed a group called ‘Keep Spurn Wild’. Some do not want the visitor centre at all, some are happy for the project to take place, but do not like the site that has been chosen. Despite lots of modifications to the plans made as a result of feedback from local people, all the evidence has indicated the location chosen is the best one and this has been independently ratified.

So, what is really at the heart of the conflict at Spurn? Naturally, local people feel a strong sense of ownership and attachment to the site, even if they carry no responsibility for it and have no liability for other users or the legal designations. This is understandable; they have spent many hours enjoying the site, perhaps helping with its management and monitoring, sharing enjoyment with other people etc. Some may have even moved home specifically to be close to the place that they are passionate about. These people view ‘absent’ landlords as out of touch, uncaring and lacking knowledge of the site and this creates conflict. This is all typical of the Spurn situation.

Secondly, the non-wildlife part of the local community has issues with the Trust for different reasons. Spurn’s location attracts large numbers of migrant birds and a good share of rarities each year, which in turn attracts thousands of birders from across the country. Whilst the Trust tries to manage visitors to the nature reserve, many of these birders spend time around the village and are therefore outside the influence of the Trust. Nevertheless, the Trust still gets criticised when a small proportion of birders walk on graves in the village churchyard or block up the road through the village with their cars. Also, the Trust’s policy of charging for car access to the National Nature Reserve for many years has been unpopular with local people who would like to enjoy the site for free. These factors combined have meant the Trust was already unpopular with some of the local residents.

Whilst the Trust has had staff on the ground at Spurn for decades, some local people feel aggrieved that some decisions that impact on Spurn are made remotely, in York. For a charity managing 97 nature reserves and working across the whole of Yorkshire, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Chief Executive has to be based somewhere central, for obvious reasons.

For many years the sole staff presence was a gatekeeper who wardened the site and tried to reduce negative impacts from visitors on the wildlife of Spurn. Much of this involved stopping people bringing dogs on site, stopping people bringing quad bikes and scramblers on site, stopping camping etc – the man who says ‘no’. Some activities requested by our partners the Spurn Bird Observatory and others would sometimes be in contradiction with the Trust’s agreed management plans for the SSSI (regulated by Natural England), and again we would have to say no. As you can imagine, over time this creates conflict and compounds an already difficult situation.

The Trust has taken a lot of criticism from birders in particular about car park charges. The Trust made the decision over a year ago following feedback from a public consultation event to remove charging for local residents. People visiting from further afield should reasonably be expected to contribute a small fee to the upkeep of this major National Nature Reserve and we would hope that most would not have a problem with this. There is no charge for walking or cycling on to Spurn. Spurn Bird Observatory charges non-member visitors to access their land in Kilnsea which strangely does not seem to attract an equal level of criticism!

The Trust finds itself in a difficult position. It has a legal duty to maintain and or improve the wildlife features for which Spurn is designated – some of the management may not quite match what local birders want, which creates conflict. The Trust has a duty of care to its visitors. Spurn has become incredibly hazardous since the road was lost and despite prominent signage, publicity and verbal advice warning people about the hazards of crossing the wash-over area when the tide is in, people still choose to ignore the warnings. A new visitor centre will not completely solve this problem but will at least give the Trust a better chance to engage with more people, especially those that are new to the site.

The current visitor situation around the north end of the National Nature Reserve in the Warren area is unacceptable. Lots of cars, with no formal parking areas, lots of people free to wander wherever they wish and a collection of old dilapidated buildings is not good for a National Nature Reserve and the Trust’s plans are to move this visitor hub into a larger area to the north and re-naturalise the Warren area with dune and scrub habitat. People climbing up on the Humber Bank at the Warren, walking along the saltmarsh, walking through the bushes near the Canal and along the Canal Bank all have impacts on birds. The Trust is designing an access plan which will encourage visitors to focus their activities in less sensitive areas. While this won’t restrict access for local people who hopefully understand the sensitivities, it might encourage others who are less familiar with the area to enjoy the site without disturbing wildlife.

The last thing the Trust wants to do is to damage relationships with local people. If the other potential locations for the centre could have been proven to have no impact on wildlife and the landscape, be sustainable, give the Trust the ability to control and manage access to Spurn, then we would have leapt at the chance. Instead, we have endured a very difficult time by seeking the option that has least impact on wildlife and the landscape, will cope with being flooded and is close enough to the nature reserve to enable visitor management.


96 Replies to “Guest blog – Spurn developments by John Lawton”

  1. This sort of blog really worries me. It is not only highly misleading, it also insults those “locals” who have done amazing work at Spurn and shows really how out of touch some charities have become with the wildlife and the people they are trying to help. I usually agree that some birders unnecessarily oppose all development but the fact is the Spurn birders do not oppose a visitor’s centre. They just feel the superb migrant bushes by the Canal Scrape are a woefully unsuitable site, when the wildlife trust already owns the Bluebell Cafe, which it has inexplicably shut and would make a great visitor centre spot.

    The picture of Spurn as someone no one ventures is not a picture I recognise. I’m not a local but visit fairly regularly and the site is often packed with birders, school groups and others enjoying nature. I like to stay in one of the “dilipidated buildings”, the Warren cottage because it is cheap.

    NGBs and other young birders have really been encouraged by Spurn Bird Obs (unlike YWT who have done nothing to encourage young birders to visit) and we have regular meet ups of up to 25 for weekends at Spurn.

    The line: “The Trust is designing an access plan which will encourage visitors to focus their activities in less sensitive areas” really worries me. What does this actually mean? If it means I will only be able to go to Kilnsea Wetlands or Kew, it really defeats the object of going to find birds.

  2. I am a birder, have worked at Spurn and continue to work in the conservation sector. Spurn is a magical place which is why something has big as this has caused such emotional outpouring by many who are passionate about the place.

    No one will deny the fact that the visitor facilities for a place which at one point had 70000 visitors a year needed an upgrade. However since the 2013 tidal surge the dynamics of Spurn have changed and that needs to be recognised.

    For many years there has been very little work done by YWT in terms of habitat management along the point, breeding bird numbers are poor. Little terns once used to nest down there but because of human disturbance and fox predation it has been a number of years since. Footpaths are poorly maintained so no wonder people make their own way. Some path maintenance has only recently started and only because of the Spurn Migration Festival. Many sheep drowned in the tidal surge because they left the sheep down the point when the surge was predicted.

    Many birders will take offence at the accusation of disturbing roosting waders whilst viewing them from the warren. For many many years the bench provides excellent views of the waders moving with the tide and as anyone who knows the area will know waders are not disturbed there. Poor signage and conversation with visitors results in waders being disturbed around chalk bank. I can recall a YWT member of staff taking a school group out onto the spartina at high tide flushing all the waders, now that is disturbance.

    Since the tidal surge the YWT have a purchased a unimog to take people on ‘Spurn Safaris’, potentially a good concept of allowing people access to the point now there was no road. however they keep getting the vehicle stuck on the breach: there are large areas of soft, sinking sand. And since this weekend the RNLI who still work from the point have deemed the breach unsafe to drive on. Yet YWT are still advertising unimog safaris!

    The lighthouse is being redeveloped, fantastic, if only people from all walks of life could access it once it has been finished. If the RNLI have deemed the breach unsafe for vehicles then how are people going to get the lighthouse without having to walk 6 mile round trip?

    The YWT own the Bluebell Cafe, but it’s opening hours are erratic and frequently there are nots left on the door saying it is closed today. If they can’t run a small cafe then how do they propose to run a large visitor centre?

    Personally I agree the facilities do need an upgrade with better parking as currently cars park on the road. A more informative visitor centre including staff does need to happen but the location is questionable. The area planned is surrounded by scrub providing vital shelter for migrating birds. Planting scrub will take years to develop due to the harsh growing conditions. The proposed site fire development is also located in area that will be increasingly prone to flooding if we are to experience more storms coinciding with high tides. They say the building will be able to be moved but where are they thinking of moving it to? There has been a lack of informative consultation with the locals with meetings advertised at the last minute in some cases when many are at work.

    People are happy to join Spurn Bird Observatory as they are investing in the land they own for the birds and working with the community.

    If YWT want the support of locals and birders they need to start positively engaging with us. They need to start doing active management and maintenance of the visitor trails and interpretation.

    We all want what is best for Spurn and the wildlife and its the wildlife and visitor safety that needs to be priority.

      1. I am not a local but enjoy birding regularly at Spurn. Just a few weeks ago, I watched a tiny Firecrest in the Canal bushes along with Whinchat and Wheatear. How sad to think that the YWT think that this is a suitable site for their VC. Why consider building in such an unsuitable place, not just disturbing the migrant birds but also putting a new building so close to the Humber Estuary? In his post, John suggested that birders were disturbing waders on the Humber, wouldn’t the same apply if a VC was built there??
        I suspect that the YWT now don’t want to lose face and back down from their current plans. I would urge them to listen to not just the local people but also to all those who visit and know the area so well. There is no reason to disturb wildlife when, I understand, two buildings have been offered to them. Either of these would be a great alternative.
        I’m not convinced by the YWTs statement about wanting to safeguard visitors. Why would a new VC do this when at the moment they don’t seem to be too concerned, their information centre at the gate is usually unmanned. The last twice that I’ve visited, I haven’t seen a member of the YWT even though I’ve been wandering around all day.
        Take the blinkers off , YWT! Please.

  3. I am not local to Spurn. I am no NIMBY. But Spurn is where I most enjoy my birding, where I have made great friends and where I know I will return to for the rest of my life. It is so disheartening to see the YWT view the area, its wildlife and people as their major cashcow.
    I have issues with some points raised by Sir Lawton:

    “One of the key tasks faced by the Trust is ensuring people have a safe, informative and enjoyable visit without causing damage or disturbance to the site’s wildlife.” – I am a frequent visitor to Spurn. EVERY weekend I have visited this year there has been no one manning the gate “stopping people bringing dogs on site, stopping people bringing quad bikes and scramblers on site, stopping camping etc” as Sir Lawton outlines. Visiting birders, myself included, have had to deal with dirtbikers, dog walkers and explain to visitors that there is no road access to the Point.

    “The Trust is designing an access plan which will encourage visitors to focus their activities in less sensitive areas. While this won’t restrict access for local people who hopefully understand the sensitivities, it might encourage others who are less familiar with the area to enjoy the site without disturbing wildlife.” – Sounds like another hint/threat to birders and naturalists, the likes of which was heard earlier this year. Does this mean more barbed wire? A genuine question here.

    “a charity managing 97 nature reserves” – I found the use of the word “manage” amusing here. But that´s just me.

    On the visitor centre, I disagree with its PLACEMENT. The Trust´s existing residence at Bluebell, with full view of the turbines E.ON so desperately wants, could be expanded (Lo! The property next door is for sale!), has a carpark and (most importantly) will have less of an impact on wildlife and migrant birds. Sir Lawton´s little moan at birders “walking through the bushes near the Canal and along the Canal Bank” is moot when the visitor centre is to be placed ON TOP of the bushes along the Canal. The increase of visitors that they hope for following construction will all be walking around these areas too.

    (on the topic of the Bluebell – which, until this summer, was run by Petra & team before their eviction, now manned by YWT personnel. Except it´s not manned. Since the transition, I have not once seen it open – despite clear opening times displayed. Why is this? Is it due to reduced custom? As Sir Lawton tells us, the “site attracted up to 70,000 visitors a year, although the figure has reduced in recent years”. YWT: here for the “good times”, absent in the “bad”?)

    In the grand picture, the visitor centre is not the end of the world. But it is going to impact the word of so many locals and loyal visitors, who return to the site week-after-week, rather than a one-off jolly to look at a new building. It´s a piece of a puzzle that, time after time, fails to show that the YWT is fit to run the reserve.

    Living and birding in Yorkshire for the last 18 years, my opinion is skewed by hearing (and experiencing!) The Trust´s name, more often than not, associated with poor management, lack of care/interest and bumbling incompetence. That is across the whole county, not just in the world of the Humber Estuary.

  4. I can’t help but feel a little frustrated reading this article, Jasper has covered pretty much everything I felt needed to be said and has pointed out why people are so angered by the trusts behaviour weather the lack of orgnsation on their part or a sneaky tactic to minamise the number of public turning up to the consultation meetings, doesn’t exactly make a great start in gaining the locals and wider publics support for such things.

    I am a keen birder and visitor to spurn, i have spent many hours walking around the area as well as walking down the the point and actually prefer it now as its tends to be much quieter with the vehicular access cut off. I have been keeping track of the #keepspurnwild group and based on what they have shown and the information and plans for the site produced by YWT I cannot blame and support them for apposing the plans.

    If they really want to reduce disturbance and the impact to the sites sensitive environment why do they plan to build a two story building bang in the middle of the Triangle which will destroy areas of well developed open and dense scrub and rough grassland and to be virtually on top of the canal and scrape areas, this area is also only a few minutes walk from the Warren.

    I do feel that the area needs a centre but not at the site proposed by YWT, originally one of the reasons for the triangle area was that it gave fantastic views of the offshore wind farm, it’s nice to know that they really have the important issues at heart. Many people have suggested the possibility of putting the VC on the road between Kilnsea and the bluebell cafe at the bluebell end in the arable field where although it will have some impact on some of the hedgerow the arable/grazing field is a much better alternative, you are still In the area with a short walk down the road to the warren area etc. It’s still on the main road and their should be adequate if not more possibility for a carpark and it can be worked in conjunction with the Bluebell cafe which they run, more importantly you get a great view of the offshore wind farm.

  5. Many of my concerns relating to this ‘guest blog’ have been raised above. However…… “These people view ‘absent’ landlords as out of touch, uncaring and lacking knowledge of the site and this creates conflict.” Not only is this an incredibly arrogant comment it also blatantly contradicts some of his earlier assertions.

    Also I find it hard to believe that in the 17 years since Ian Carstairs’ original report as to the need for more adequate facilities, no funding could be found. Funding for many other projects and a largely increased YWT staff has been gleaned from somewhere?

    1. Love the point about no improvement in facilities despite knowing about it since 1996. Not a lot of new habitat has been created either.

  6. I have known Spurn for more than 40 of my many more years, first as a bird watcher in the 1950’s and then as a botanist in the 1980’s and 90’s. While I sympathise with the YWT over the breach and its commitment to maintain the listed lighthouse, I cannot help but feel that the breach has come at the best time to give Spurn a much needed rest and to galvanise YWT into thinking more widely about its responsibility for managing every facet of its ecology, not just to cater for visitors and the wealth that they may bring. I winced on reading some of Sir John Lawton’s statements, some of which will be deemed inflammatory by many as, I’m sure, will these comments of mine.
    I used to lead groups of botanists along the peninsula to enjoy assemblages of plants that one would otherwise have to travel hundreds of miles to see elsewhere. I would include entomologists in my groups to help interpret the ecology of these assemblages, something Professor Sir John, as an ecologist, should understand. I’m sorry to say that this National Nature Reserve has not been worth the effort to visit for about 5 years. Conservation management has been replaced by plant blindness, people management, over-grazing, overgrowth of scrub and, importantly, seems to be orientated mainly to bird conservation. Bird disturbance seems to be a modern phenomenon dictating all conservation management and I am one of several who now believe it to be an excuse to be exclusive to people of other interests. Bird conservation is best served through conserving and maintaining habitat and food chains. I was made aware while leading a botanical walk outside this County by a lady, one of several in her circle of friends, who have stopped visiting Spurn because, “it is not longer a place to get away from people and sheep”. Although I agree it is not a YWT problem, there is a concern about visiting plant and habitat blind twitchers trampling down natural habitat in their pursuit of a tick. However, a visitor centre will not solve this.
    A visitor centre at the prescribed location is, I feel wrong, for the reasons noted in other blogs, and for the reason that it will it incur the loss of yet more green space to car parks and pathways. I have seen pathways at other reserves where they comprise parallel screen hedgerows of banal species and all botanical and ecological interest is reduced to the superficial, or confined to ruderal plants and cryptogams growing out of the hard urbanized surface. I could go on, and on but would only cover the ground made by other bloggers.

    1. “All conservation of wildness is self-defeating, for to cherish we must see and fondle, and when enough have seen and fondled, there is no wilderness left to cherish.” ― Aldo Leopold.

      In defence of the botany of the hard urbanised surface: Frank H Brightman might disagree that it supports an impoverished flora – but he’s dead. Those who went on his conducted walks to see the flora of walls in Bromley and Orpington and who are not yet dead might also disagree. Also that a species can be inherently banal

  7. I know little about Spurn but, in defence of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, if they have been hit as hard as my local Trust they have very few staff left and are overly dependent on volunteers – which is no way to manage 97 nature reserves.

    Put the blame where it belongs: successive governments that see no intrinsic value in our wild places.

    1. On the last count I heard, they had just under 100 staff, so they’re doing OK. What this does mean is a huge payroll and a constant need to maintain revenue streams. I suspect one of the main attractions of a new centre in the location they’re proposing – as opposed to renovating the Bluebell building they already own – is the rental they will receive to house ABP’s comms masts. Perhaps YWT would like to enlighten us as to how much that will be?

  8. This looks like a ‘classic’ consultation – where, under a banner of listening, you in fact adopt a position and then defend it, fighting every concession hard. If you have a bit more experience you don’t brand the people who disagree with you as a small group of (implied) nimby’s or extremists, but you certainly believe in your own case and have difficulty recognising how bad a lot of the things you believe in sound to the neutral observer – as is the case here. having been through many similar experiences, in the Forestry Commission in the 90s we managed to move on – especially through New Forest-New Future which addressed long term conflict land management challenges on a different scale to Spurn. RSPB – at the time of Sir John’s chairmanship – through Chris Corrigan played a vital role in a process which redefined how issues like this should be addressed. But, to my regret, those lessons never seemed to penetrate back into the conservation community. Its all in my book ‘Forest Vision’ and I would cheekily suggest that Sir John and YWT might benefit from a couple of copies !

  9. Whatever the precise merits of the current scheme, protecting the wildlife and making such a fabulous place as wild as possible has to be the priority. Humans have the other 99% of Britain to ride roughshod over – and what a horrific mess we’ve made of most of it. Hurray for banning vehicles!

  10. Why don’t we make spurn a coastal rewilding project?

    Sorry, just stirring there. Birding, like walking, fishing, bait digging and fowling and boating can and does lead to disturbance. The staff and volunteers at spurn have always had trouble with disturbance, more so from summer visitors than “birders” per se.

    Signs as I understand, as well as info leaflets have been tried to help limit this. The wardens and staff/volunteers/students have gone to great lengths to maximise the little tern colony production as disturbance and predation and wash outs hit them hard. But the land is viewed as public space, by everyone it seems, and therefore like wild fisheries the tragedy of the commons ensues.

    John Lawton has merely pointed out the big picture, the difficulties, and I think rightly the local vs centralised conflicts. Its not new.

    Re money I say charge a fee. For any access, as you would on a pier for fishing. It is no different, make it pay. As you would for launching a boat or a wildfowling permit. Make it transparent, have accounts. Personally I would argue not to have a visitor centre. Good toilets and a hot drink, its not a indoor kind of place.

    Good blog Imo, it wasn’t courting opinion as they have had plenty, and I have found that yorks and lincs birders do have plenty , it was stating a decision making position.


  11. I don’t seem to fall into one of the categories of people who Prof Lawton mentions in this blog. I am not a resident and I haven’t moved to live near Spurn. I live on the opposite side of the country but visit at least twice a year for a week or so at a time. I understand the Trusts position to some extent, but do not understand its logic at all. These comments are my opinion only based on some relevant experience – If I’m factually incorrect regarding the site/proposal specifics then apologies in advance.

    Much of what is written above has been covered in personal emails I have recieved from the YWT during correspondence with them about this matter, and still the whole idea is, to me at least illogical. Some of the comments made above are also irrelevant in my opinion. That Spurn was previously more developed than it is now, and its wild state is a recent phenomenon being a case in point. Firstly, great if the site is ‘wilder’ than it was.Everyone is happy. But when exactly is this previous time? Is Prof Lawton referring to the Second World War and subsequent years when the site was an Army base? Perhaps there is something else I am unaware of. If we go back far enough we’ll find Spurn wasn’t developed at all, should that be our baseline? Some old dilapidated buildings have been removed (e.g. Black Hut) but this comment suggests that more has been done. If so, I do not know where this has happened in the last 20yrs. Maybe I’m reading it wrong.

    I have been told that the Bluebell is not a viable alternative. I don’t understand why and it hasn’t been explained to me. Presumably it already has a licence to sell food and drink. There is a car park. If the bluebell alone is not big enough the cottage adjacent to it is for sale. Why not buy that and renovate them both or rebuild within the footprint. Which raises a question about exactly how many people are the trust expecting to come and use this facility? Figures of 70,000 per year ‘at its peak’ may be true, but what are they now? What proportion are actually visitors that would use a visitor centre? If there are issues within the village related to the number of visitors coming to Spurn, surely a large all singing all dancing visitor centre is just going to encourage more people. And, more people increases the pressure on the ecology – exactly what YWT says it s trying to mitigate. “People climbing up on the Humber Bank at the Warren, walking along the saltmarsh, walking through the bushes near the Canal and along the Canal Bank all have impacts on birds.” Yes they do, but put these in context – a small number of people maybe 10 max sit looking out over the Humber from the bench opposite the Warren. Its been there for years with no impact that I have ever perceived. People walking through the bushes near the canal and along the canal bank – Yes it happens but if you encourage more people into this area it will happen even more. Talk of access plans fills me with dread. Part of the beauty of Spurn is that it is open land. I can go where I wish within reason and using common sense and concern for the wildlife. I do not want another Minsmere or Leighton Moss with designated pathways, designated viewing hides and don’t walk here signs. 99% of people I see visiting already adhere to basic common good practice. The remaining 1% will ignore any access plan anyway. I fully agree with the Keep Spurn Wild concept.

    If the trust is concerned about the number of people parking in the village, exactly how, is providing a paid car park at the end of a dead end road going to stop people parking along a public road if they so choose? I appreciate and understand its a problem, but this strikes me as a bizarre solution. Regarding parking at the Warren, there are other ways of managing the parking there – a simple sign saying no parking except for permit holders/residents of the Observatory/ Staff or whatever, and enforcing it would be one option. Actually collecting parking fees would also stop people parking randomly. If these cannot be enforced, how will they enforce parking on a wider scale?

    Even if you consider that YWT are saying they will mitigate ecology impacts – which is debatable from what I’ve seen to date, what about the visual landscape impacts on the Heritage Coast. There will be impacts and they will be big impacts.

    I fall into the camp of not wanting a visitor centre at its proposed location. There will be other options, perhaps not first choice for the YWT, but there will be other options and the trust should look to those.

  12. I’ve known Spurn as a birding visitor for a long time. Even from most of Yorkshire it is a long, mostly facility-free journey, so I and I’m sure many others would welcome a more ambitious visitor centre. The YWT (I am a member) can do big projects – for example the exciting and expanding North Cave Wetlands, but they obviously do not have the resources of, say, the RSPB. Perhaps some of the Spurn purists could think themselves lucky that we still have as much left of the peninsular as we do – how much should the Trust have physically invested in a site which at any time could apparently have become a much reduced, boat-accessed island only, thanks to its fragile relationship to the sea? Whatever form the ‘Northern Power House’ may take, this site should be growing in importance as a jewel in the crown of northern England, for wildlife and history, and deserves better access for a potentially much wider public. So it seems the Trust have some further work to do with clarifying their vision for a sustainable future here – including income stream, parking, and visitor management, and how they see peninsular access as a whole evolving. I agree with posts above that the Trust has limited, mostly volunteer resources, and the national importance of the site deserves much wider expertise and investment than they maybe have available. But their critics are not self evidently coming up with better plans to match the scale of the task. I’m not best qualified to judge the merits of the proposed site – it seems to me that migrants can appear anywhere in the Spurn – Kilnsey area, without being too fussy as long as there is some cover.

  13. I am not a birder but live in Kilnsea and against the Visitors Centre!
    What information is CLEARLY MISSING is that the money from Eon was for the community, to help the local community….not for the YWT. There are many things that money could have been used for here and we feel strongly about this.
    Since the breach it has become quite dangerous and the YWT are aware of this and this is not going to change. Why endanger peoples lives by attracting even more people down, more people to tread on fragile earth that is so precious to Spurn.
    We have an information centre and cafe but even that is hardly open, the Blue Bell could be used without a centre being built. I lived in the Blue Bell for ten years and the rooms are large enough, its a big building.
    We moved here in 1971, Kilnsea and Spurn were inundated with visitors and holiday makers and school trips, we needed no visitors centre then and thats because learning about wildlife and nature you need to experience it hands on.
    The information centre will not be managed well in my opinion, will hardly be used. We have birders walking around the village every day of the year and have for years, it makes no difference to locals who live here as we expect this, we also get on with them. Using the graveyard as an example, that was bad, thats just respect.
    The YWT seems to think we have only one objective as locals and thats to complain but this is not true, we all care about the place we live, we respect the area we live in and this money could have made such good use of in other ways.

  14. There are many parts of this blog that I would oppose, but it has been well done already by others above. But one point that Sir John Lawton made I would like to refute. He says:

    Contrary to what some people may believe, Spurn has been quite built-up over the years and its fairly wild current state is a comparatively recent phenomenon, resulting from the Trust’s ongoing work to remove buildings and re-wild the site together with the loss of the road and consequent actions of the power company removing the poles along the point.

    In the course of writing my book, The People along the Sand: the Spurn peninsula and Kilnsea, a history, 1800-2000 I did plenty of research. I can assure Sir John that when the YWT pulled old military buildings down from the 1970s onwards the motivation was not rewilding. In fact they used the rubble to fill in various areas where erosion had done its best to break through the peninsula (not a problem then before the area was designated a SSSI etc and such interference with nature was frowned upon). The fact that rewilding was not their intention is borne out by their leaving the concrete bases behind. The archives of the YWT will support my assertion here of course (if anyone in the YWT is interested in the past which I doubt). Moreover as he should know, the removal of the electricity poles was forced upon them by the breach damaging them beyond repair.

    Finally I object to his offensive statements about those who oppose the Trust. As a local, a naturalist (I run a moth trap), a bird-watcher, a supporter for 30 years of Spurn Bird Observatory, a member of Keep Spurn Wild Action Group, and a historian, I think I have been attacked upon many levels in this blog. Like others I worked closely in the late 1980s and 1990s with the Spurn Heritage Coast Project in those heady days when the conservation of Spurn was a priority (even for the YWT). At some point thereafter the YWT lost its way. I have been asked by your staff who work here now ‘How can we regain your support?’. My answer is first and foremost withdraw this idea to place your visitor centre in Triangle Field. work out other and better solutions to what I agree is a difficult site to manage now that people can no longer access the peninsula easily. If you began with that you might be amazed how easy it would be to rebuild trust with the Trust. That would be my hope anyway.

    1. Jan, I find it so strange that you have so many “dislikes” when your last sentence states “If you began with that you might be amazed how easy it would be to rebuild trust with the Trust. That would be my hope anyway”.

      One can only draw the conclusion that many people do not want to work with YWT and start building relationships, hence the amount of “dislikes” your post has attracted.

      1. I’ve been puzzled by the dislikes too. And maybe you are right. People judge that It is too late for the Trust to rebuild any trust. As a member for over 10 years I’ve been holding on with my membership of the YWT because I still hoped that they might think again and withdraw these plans for a visitor centre on Triangle Field. I am now quite certain that they will ‘go to the wire’ and like Dave Tucker and I hope many more from today I am no longer a member of the YWT.

        1. “There are many parts of this blog that I would oppose” – When I first read this I understood it to mean you were opposed to the article and all the comments thereafter which came as a bit of a shock. Then I realised (very quickly) that you merely meant the garbage that lawton had written. A possible reason for the dislikes if you see what I mean? I gave you a big thumbs up!

          1. Yes I am utterly opposed to ‘the garbage’ that Sir John Lawton has written. I was and am insulted by it, but am much cheered by the almost unanimous attack on it here. Surely the YWT will think again now? When I first heard of the proposal I truly couldn’t believe they contemplated such a destruction of an area of important habitat.

  15. I support and agree with what most of the very sensible people above have written. And I fail to see why John Lawton is so keen to discriminate between locals and visitors. I don’t know exactly what he means by a local: how local is local? Kilnsea is obviously local but is Withernsea? And what difference does it make anyway?
    Spurn has always been one of those places that has a countrywide appeal and many people living well away from the site know and appreciate Spurn a lot more than some locals might do so any distinction is wrong. When I visit Spurn I think of myself as a local, having spent almost two years staying at the observatory during my twelve years as a teacher in Withernsea.

  16. Just a simple question to sir, how can increasing visitor numbers from 20,000 to 60,000 ( your numbers not mine) reduce disturbance?.
    ps and don’t believe all the propaganda you are fed by your ceo

    1. Ok. How many of you dislikers are employed by the ywt ? Would be great to see your reasons.

      1. It is very odd how there’s so many down-votes on comments to this blog without any counterarguments. People are even down-voting some of Mark’s polite “thank you for your comment” posts!

    2. Mike, by your ‘dislikes’ total here I think your ps hit a raw nerve and perhaps exposed the possible source of the unusual ‘dislikes’ pattern. Keep fighting!

  17. i have tried to keep a balanced view on this issue, this intervention from John Lawton could not have been less helpful if he had tried to be. I cannot believe that he read this back and thought this will help to bring the opposing parties together. He should not expect a call to help in the Middle East any time soon. Stuart

  18. It is notable that all the comments posted so far express some degree objection to Sir John Lawton’s blog, yet he has more that 120 ‘likes’. It would be helpful both to the YWT and to those of us who see reason to object to the YWT’s proposals at Spurn, to read alternative points of view and turn this into a debate.

  19. Like Steve Lister, Mick Turton and Jonnie Fisk, I have been visiting Spurn for years, more years than I care to think about ( over 40). Yes there have been changes some good some bad and some just inevitable whatever we might have wanted.
    What is however quite clear is that those of us in the position of a genuine feel for the place are opposed to what the YWT want to do. That alone should be ringing alarm bells in YWT HQ in York but I rather doubt it actually will their we know best view will prevail at least in their thinking.
    On a wider note they apparently “manage” 97 sites across the county, really four counties these days. Apparently some of these sites are well managed, I suppose by chance some would have to be, on the other hand many many are not.
    For Spurn to be managed well its time they did something they are poor at listening, actually taking note and certainly not building their overblown visitor centre anywhere near where they currently propose..

  20. As Peter says above, I too am perplexed that over 120 people like the article yet only two (as I write) comments are in favour. I wonder why that is? Is it because people read the blog and assume that because the writer is an experienced and qualified ecologist, and this is a Wildlife Trust the blog must be correct and the centre is a great idea? Do people really want a visitor centre and if they do who are they (I haven’t met anyone who does)? Why have they not left a comment? – 80% of respondents like the article yet less than 2% of that number have left a comment. Is it something else entirely? If those who ‘like’ could enter a comment it would make a much better and informed debate.

  21. I used to visit Spurn Point in the good old days of the 70’s and 80’s but have not been since (there’s no way I could walk that far now).
    I would like to see the road to the point repaired, surely hard core can be got quite cheaply?

  22. The feeling I’m getting from replies so far is generally very negative. I wonder if John & the Trust are surprised at this… Before I start I should state that I’m a YWT member. I also agree that the Trust would benefit from better facilities at Spurn, that visitor centres &/or interpretation centres provide significant benefits to visitors & importantly to the Trust, but I am wholly opposed to the proposed location. I also apologise for the lengthy reply.
    Right let’s get some numbers out of the way.
    Last week locals in the village of Easington were petitioned and 89% object to the plans. This is on top of 88% of Kilnsea.
    726 people have signed my i-petition No to Yorkshire Wildlife Trusts Spurn Visitor Centre and 385 people “like” my No To Spurns YWT visitor Centre Facebook Page.
    The objections & protestations are much further reaching than a group of local people. I have yet to see equal support for this project.
    Actions & Behaviours;
    Let me start by addressing your point “what is really at the heart of the conflict?” The Trust is… & the following reasons lay firmly at the feet of the Chair & CEO.
    In my opinion through this whole sorry episode the trust has been guilty of gross incompetence, ineptitude and poor management. I have always referred to these as your actions & behaviours.
    In the first instance you failed totally to engage & connect with the most important people, the community & the regular visitors. If you had done this effectively the objections could have been addressed & managed rather than coming as a total surprise. Bare in mind this is a community fund you’re using.
    You have been guilty of delivering inaccurate & conflicting communications. We have had ever changing visitor numbers quoted depending on what story you were selling. They were high & you had to manage them. Then your CEO went on local news saying they were low & you needed to attract more. Which is it?
    The scoring matrix initially published to determine location was full of contradictions, even your managers acknowledged that a location was scored down as there were no views of the wind turbines before the turbines had been built.
    You objected strongly [as you have to almost all planning applications in Kilnsea over the last decade] to the roll back of Sandy Beaches caravan park several years ago. Then immediately before you initially intended to submit to planning you failed to object to an almost identical application. A clear indication other agendas were at play & your abandonment of values & principles.
    You continued to insist for months that this was not at all about money & was purely about managing visitors & their safety. After I published excerpts from the Leeds Met tourism paper you had commissioned in 2010 you finally changed all your PR approach & started to sell the jobs/revenue/benefits line. Revenue & tourism clearly were at the front of your mind. Why not say this at the outset?
    At a local meeting your CEO stood in front of a clearly inflamed 200 residents & stated “the VC would give Kilnsea a reason to exist”. Not a great PR exercise.
    You later eliminated a suggested location as Whimbrel [SPA species] use it, only to recently dig it up to create habitat Whimbrel are not attracted to.
    Most latterly the risk you took over starting to renovate the lighthouse AFTER the 2013 surge as part of your Tourism plan has potentially hugely backfired now the breach has become impassable even by 4×4 vehicles. Another sign of poor risk management & a potential waste of significant public money.
    So you see – your actions & behaviours are the driver behind the bad feeling & objection. I’ve numerous other examples. Indeed I would suggest your blog does nothing to demonstrate this has improved as it appears inflammatory to residents & birders alike.
    You have stated the chosen location offers the least impact to wildlife. I totally refute this. The location is based in the middle of arguably one of the most fragile & unique parts of the area. Immediately adjacent to the Humber & its mass of roosting waders visitor footfall will materially increase. It’s at the head of the narrowing of the peninsula, an incredible wildlife corridor where huge numbers of birds & insects move through [ I believe you stated this in your Sandy Beaches roll back objection] & is indeed in the buffer zone of an internationally recognised Ramsar site.
    I believe choosing this location was driven by agendas beyond the welfare of the environment. It’s the furthest site from the village & was deemed the location likely to attract least objection from residents.
    You also claim this location has been independently ratified.. by who? I recall noting on earlier Trust communication the RSPB support the application, is this who you refer to? I would strongly suggest this is not “independent” given you are vice president of the RSPB & the chair of the Trust. Clearly a conflict of interest in any normal circles. Trust staff also appear to be carrying out survey work to support your application, far from independent.
    Health & safety is clearly a serious issue. I question the logic in aiming to attract a material increase in visitors to a site deemed so hazardous. I also question how a VC will increase safety. Signage & feet on the ground at the site of the hazard will do that arguably more effectively. There are countless popular locations I have visited equally or more hazardous where signage & information boards clearly help to mitigate risk.
    Lets bare in mind your VC will operate in office hours. Let’s also bare in mind not everyone will “pop in” how do you propose to protect these people & why can’t that apply to all
    Stripped down this is a commercial undertaking hiding behind the green pound. I totally accept revenue is fundamentally important to conservation. I also totally accept conservation is business, to say it isn’t is naïve & folly. But what is the cost of this business to the very places you are protecting
    If a corporate developer wanted to build on that plot of land you would object

    This final point can’t go unaddressed. While I have more issues with EON than the Trust on this it’s an important point. This is a community fund. EON set up these funds to serve the communities in which they operate. In all EON windfarm developments that we have been able to research the community grant money has all been made available to the community in the first instance. This is the only example we can find where an organisation has approached & secured funding before the very community where they are operating has had a chance to consider it. At £0.9m there is no wonder the community feel strongly, particularly when almost 90% object. What I can say is that the Trust has let themselves & the community down by missing an amazing opportunity to come together & develop something amazing in this truly wild place. This was an opportunity to address some of the issues mentioned in the blog post.
    So to the YWT I say;
    Protecting & conserving Yorkshires wildplaces & wildlife – your mission statement. You don’t need a VC to do this. If you do & you truly believe in wildplaces then this is the wrong location.
    Don’t overstep the line into commercialism. Don’t lose sight of what we as Nature lovers expect & want by trying to over reach to those yet to realise the beauty. Read some of the comments on the i-petition. Hearts & minds are also a huge part of conservation, you can win lots back by re-thinking, re-defining & forging some collaboration with those that you have massively alienated over the last 12-18 months.

    1. I’m a part time local who has loved the area all my life and brought up,a family here to respect all wildlife, not the love of money.
      A very well,argued point in the above post. covering the majority of the issues that I myself feel are so wrong with most of the VC and other proposals. For a’ trust! And I feel the word engenders a responsibility of protection and in this case protector for the wild life, land and environment needs to act as such . As with doctors the oath” First do no harm”‘ strongly jumps to mind.
      The land and birds and plants ought to be dictated by nature, not by man.
      Any proposals I have seen are to do with meeting the needs of man , not wildlife. My rant over

  23. Sorry – another point. You mention the Obs charging people to enter their land to view birds. The Obs ask for contributions from non members of the friends of Spurn Bird Observatory when a rare bird turns up. This request is almost always received graciously. Possibly because the obs has been dealing with visitors since 1945, some 15 years more experience than the Trust. Perhaps the Trust could learn a few things from the Spurn Bird Obs about managing people & how to treat them. They may start to get warmer responses.
    Bare in mind too the Obs don’t have the benefit of the tens of thousands of pounds of Stewardship grants the Trust gets for enclosing fields with barbed wire & occasionally sticking a head of cattle or sheep on it to graze it to within an inch of its life.

  24. I have nothing substantive to add to the above, the great bulk of which I am in agreement with. What concerns me is the apparent intransigence of YWT. I see no evidence that they are prepared to shift their ground at all. Serious questions have been raised about the desirability and feasibility of their proposals AND about the process by which those proposals have been arrived at: crucially, the issue of consultation, which they insist has been done properly despite clear evidence to the contrary. Most frustratingly of all, a compromise solution – the development of the Bluebell – seems within relatively easy reach, yet is dismissed cursorily.

    I write as a visitor to the area for 20 years, now resident nearby.

  25. I really do think YWT should be taking a step back from this situation and giving it a re appraisal. The best part of half a million pounds of lottery money was secured for the lighthouse renovation. It all seemed laudable when their was car access to the point. The breach in 2013 has meant that the local gulls are going to benefit from an expensively refurbished perch.
    Following the breach,the unimog was purchased presumably with YWT funds to enable visitors access to the refurbished lighthouse. That now seems to be an expensive vehicle that will spend the rest of it’s days languishing around Kilnsea unless sold off.
    Next the plans for the visitor centre, in no small part I am sure done with being a disembarkation point for unimog trips in mind. Possibly lucrative enough to be worth riding roughshod over local objections for.
    However the power of the North Sea has made these ventures out to be sheer folly. Who knows what further geographic changes will occur at Spurn with the anticipated sea level rise and unpredictable weather due to global warming. YWT needs to stop now and stop throwing good money after bad in semi commercial ventures. Good management is the ability to not be besotted with the immediate, but being able to take a wider long term view. YWT has repeatedly failed to do this.

  26. “So, what is really at the heart of the conflict at Spurn?”

    YWT lost a source of very easy revenue when the road to the point was lost so now want to build a car park and visitor centre to replace that revenue. Despite overwhelming opposition from most local people and regular visitors to Spurn, the Trust is hell-bent on continuing with it’s plan despite the fact that virtually every justification they offer in support of the venture being demonstrably demonstrated to be complete bollocks. So this is not about caring for the environment or safety.. it’s about money and the advancement of the careers of certain YWT officers. In addition they have repeatedly misrepresented, misinformed and misdirected all in farcical attempt to keep their ludicrous plan from being exposed as the giant folly that it is. Shame on the YWT and shame on you Prof Sir John Lawton.

  27. This is far from being the first time the YWT has treated the efforts and opinions of local conservationists with contempt. While it pains me to criticize any wildlife organisation, the Trust has a long history of this sort of imperious behaviour. It has become a revenue-chasing monster, concerned with maintaining its payroll as much as anything. Besides, what is the ecological footprint (habitat loss, energy expenditure, carbon emissions) of building a new centre as opposed to renovating the Bluebell?

  28. Dear Sir Lawton,

    I am responding to your blog post as one of the local angry villagers, to which you refer within your post. I will start by saying that i am astonished by the content of your post, i find it hard to believe that someone with your professional standing and credentials would stoop so low as to attack the local residents. If you did indeed write this blog post, which I find difficult to believe, then you should feel a great sense of shame, and should consider your position as Chair of the YWT.

    1) You start your post by citing that YWT purchased Spurn in 1959, however you selectively omit to say YWT purchased Spurn with help from Spurn Bird Obs, I am sure this is simply an oversight on your part.

    2) Sir John you then go on to say, “E.ON has been building the Humber Gateway Windfarm off the Spurn coast in recent months. A few years ago when their planning application was submitted, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust expressed a series of major concerns about the potential impacts on wildlife from the proposal. To their credit, E.ON took these concerns very seriously and conducted a lot of work and modifications to ensure any impact would be minimised. The Trust was satisfied with their actions and did not object to this planning application”. Major Concerns, would you like to share YWTs Major Concerns with the wider public, and discuss what modifications E-on made; was one of the modifications an offer £900,000 to YWT from the community fund??

    3) You have directed an attack on local residents within this blog, it is this that I find most hurtful and damaging, how can YWT ever expect to foster harmonious relationships with local people when you as the YWT Chairman write such comments as: “Sadly, despite a protracted period of consultation, a group of local people in the immediate vicinity of Spurn have protested very angrily about the plans and have even formed a group called ‘Keep Spurn Wild’”. Perhaps a bit of background from the local area will help. Protracted consultation, how do you quantify protracted consultation? When YWT discussed taking money from the Community Fund with E-on, there was no consultation with local residents or even the local Parish Council. A meeting was held in the local village hall in Easington on the 17th of July 2015, arranged by a local Councillor and chaired by Local MP Graham Stuart. This meeting demonstrated unanimous opposition to the development of a visitor centre in the Triangle Field. At the end of the meeting a follow up meeting was promised by YWT, true to form this meeting never materialised. So Sir John, as you might understand, relationships with YWT and local residents are at an all time low, and your defamatory remarks will only serve to alienate YWT further within the community. You then take the subjective stance by proclaiming “So, what is really at the heart of the conflict at Spurn?” This is an arrogant statement and opinion from someone who clearly relies on the rhetoric of others within local YWT management team for his misinformation, and has not engaged with the local community himself.

    4) I will leave the management of visiting birders to others far more qualified than I to discuss, but will offer only one observation as a local resident. When a rare bird is found at Spurn, it is Spurn Bird Obs who organise the visiting birders and YWT staff play little or no part.

    5) You then go on to say “For many years the sole staff presence was a gatekeeper who wardened the site and tried to reduce negative impacts from visitors on the wildlife of Spurn”. This is only partly correct Sir John, the part that states, there was a gatekeeper who manned the gate, who’s role was to collect the revenue from the cars going down the point. However since the breach and cars are no longer able to drive down resulting in the subsequent loss of revenue from car charges, YWT have been absent from the Warren -were the gate is to the point-, and now simply leave an honesty box for visitors. This for me is unforgivable, yes it is regrettable that YWT has lost the funding stream of car charges, but what about providing a presence to advise visitors about safety, particularly around tidal times and the breach.

    To summerise, Sir John your comments in this blog post has caused irrevocable harm to relationships with local residents and visiting birders. The proposed visitor centre lacks the support of nearly 90% of the local community and must be reconsidered.

    On a personal note, I have now cancelled my 12 year membership of YWT as I can no longer be part of an organisation that treats its local members with such contempt, and shows little regard of the local environment when in pursuit of financial gain.

    I will now like others await YWT staff to hit the dislike button………………..

  29. 200 plus likes and still only two positive comments! No one coming on to defend the YWT case or answer the many questions posed. Remarkable. I guess there’s a reason but I don’t know what it is.

  30. The like/dislike numbers on Sir John’s blog and the comments are interesting in that they show that there is some laughably fishy voting going on. Why, for example, does Jan Crowther’s comment score the most dislikes (currently 111) when she offers an idea and her hope for, “re-building trust in the Trust”, whereas Gareth Picton’s revealing and incisive in-depth analysis scored 6 dislikes? There appears to be a personality rather than an issue motive in the voting (not that it really matters). Together with the relatively disproportionate ratio of likes to dislikes of Sir John’s blog it seems to me that someone or more persons with nothing better to do, are repeat-voting on a large scale. Have they been instructed to? It is possible to double vote – I’ve tried it myself.
    An article in the Holderness Gazette today explains that the building is moveable if necessary. Where to one wonders? Somewhere ecologically sensitive not requiring planning permission perhaps?

  31. I have been a visitor to Spurn since childhood, but now I am resident within the local area. I have lived in many parts of the UK, and feel a need to speak out about what i have witnessed. Firstly I feel that your words are portraying residents, birders and Bird Spurn Obsevatory in a poor light and are indeed, inflammatory.

    I have never found a more welcoming and accepting community, either as a visitor or a resident, indeed they are not NIMBYs, having a land wind farm, large gas terminal and offshore wind farm within the immediate local area. However they are passionate about the area they live in, and indeed care about the wider community to, they show this as within this small community they weekly raise for different charities at least approximately £250, as well as other fund raising.

    I have met with many birders and have found that 99% also respect the area, support local community and use good fieldcraft, indeed many of the local people I have spoken to have nothing but positive comments about birdwatchers, there are always exceptions it is recognised here, but these are the ‘exception rather than the rule’. I would also like to point out that Spurn Bird Observatory has done a great deal at spurn and only ask for donations from non-members to see a rare bird.

    I am surprised by your statements and can only credit this for lack of information or should i say, you have been misinformed and mislead by others within YWT organisation. Many others have responded very articulatory to many of the points i would have made, so will just comment on paragraph one and seven.

    Within paragraph one you state YWT has managed Spurn Point since 1959, I concur, YWT has managed to;
    *Have a YWT staff member at the entrance to Spurn Point to take money off cars going down the peninsula, until the road was no longer passable by car as cut of at high tide. Then the YWT staff member was noticeable by there absence on most days, even though people were still walking down the peninsula, some were cut off from returning and had to wait until the tide had gone down; this is despite your assertion that safety is a priority for YWT.
    * Leave sheep to drown, even though they had prior warning of tidal surge.
    * Put up barbwire fencing which has trapped and seriously injured wildlife.
    * Graze land intensively to the detriment of fauna, insects and all wildlife.

    Lastly within paragraph seven you talk about ‘ a protracted period of consultation’, I am as previously mentioned a resident and feel incredulous that you make such a statement. I can say there has been little consultation with local people, indeed I did attend a meeting which was called by one of the Ward Counsellors in July 2015, in which your CEO gave a speech about the new Visitor Centre (VC), and in fact went on to insult the people of Kilnsea by saying that the new VC ‘would give Kilnsea a reason to exist’. A statement at the time I found very offensive, and I was left wondering were he got his communication skills from, however it has become clear that perhaps it is lead from the top, as I suggest that if your statements are anything to go by we need to look no further.

    I am sorry to say that I shall not be renewing any membership to YWT as they have lost my Trust at this point.

  32. Dave. Many excellent posts in response to the original blog, but none as heart felt & passionate… I just hope it’s taken on board.

  33. So, how many of you dislikers are employed by ywt ? It would be great to see your comments, or are you just following orders?


    I would like to ask Sir John a question and as chairman of the YWT what steps he will take to ensure information being put out in the public domain is factual and not propaganda, I have appended below a short article from my recent enquiries.
    I requested 3 lots of Freedom of Information regarding the proposed visitor centre at Kilnsea, one to the planning department at the EYRC, Natural England and also the Environment Agency.

    One of the reasons behind these requests was that at one of two public consultation meetings the YWT had with the local community in Nov 2014 I was told by a member of YWT staff that they had consulted with the planning department and had also been advised by the planning department that the current proposed location ie. The Triangle Field would be their preferred location.

    The reply I received from ERYC 16th Jan 2015 :
    ‘’It is correct that YWT have discussed their general intentions regarding a new visitor centre to the north of the existing facility (as they have made public), but from our records we have provided no pre-application advice other than to indicate that they will need to submit a screening application.

    The officer at YWT who is now dealing with this matter has confirmed that they have been advised by East Riding of Yorkshire planning officers that they will need to submit a screening application to determine whether any future planning application has to be accompanied by an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), and I understand that this will be submitted shortly.’’

    The second reason for my FOI was the YWT publications and media releases in September 2014 such as Salt Architects website, Hull Daily Mail, Yorkshire Post, Bird Guides, the YWT Spurn Sept Newsletter and finally the YWT website itself, I may have missed some !

    Text extract below from the YWT Spurn Sept Newsletter (the wording is virtually the same in all the publications):

    ‘’We have already established dialogue with Natural England, the Environment Agency, the RSPB, Local Councillors and the Spurn Bird Observatory as part of the process’’

    The reply I received from the Environment Agency :
    ‘’I consulted every department within the Environment Agency to try and find out if we have received a formal consultation for the proposed visitors centre. At the moment we have not received any formal consultations from YWT for the proposed visitor centre through the planning process or any informal discussions taken place within the teams.

    I have also spoken to the YWT today and they have confirmed that the Environment Agency has not been formally consulted yet, I am sorry I cannot be of more help.’’

    I have to admit I did send the EA an extract from one of the YWT publications to clarify why I asked for the FOI.

    Lastly the local councillors, I asked all three of them if they had been consulted on the matter, their answer was NO only in as much as they knew the YWT were planning to build a visitor centre.

    These actions and publication material are clearly not factual or correct which to me, in essence brings into question the validity or truth of any comments made by your organisation.

    So Sir John as you are chair of this organisation I ask you how you intend to ensure future information will be factual ? Furthermore last week I noticed in the Hull Daily Mail the YWT article failed to illustrate the 16.5metre tower that is proposed adjacent the visitors centre at this site by ABP. I would also like to compliment your architect in making a 7metre high building look just 3.5meters high and as you would say ‘’nestling in to its surroundings’’ which it certainly will not! As has been quoted in many comments regarding this blog ‘values and behaviours’ and actions of the YWT are again questionable, the organisation that you preside over. After reading your article it would appear yourself as chairman are being somewhat one sided in your views and attacking the people that care about this precious place.

    To conclude how can I TRUST an organisation that blatantly lies to me in formal publications, media and worst of all to my face ! I think you have a lot of work to do !!

  35. I’m a fairly regular visiting birder to Spurn, and the problem I have with a VC is solely the location. Parking needs improving (and I don’t mind paying if it funds conservation). Better information and interpretation is needed, as it’s not always a very helpful place to visit, especially for newcomers.

    However I cannot fathom why a proposed visitors’ centre needs to a) destroy some of the best habitat for finding migrants, and b) score an own goal by eliminating the unique atmosphere of the place with a two-storey, overly-modern building slapped in the middle of one of it.

    I’m pro-visitors. Pro-visitor centre. Pro-amenities. Even not anti-parking fees. Places need more than hardcore birders visiting if they’re to be cherished and protected, and we should be encouraging people to enjoy sites like Spurn and learn more about the natural world. I just don’t see why this have to be done in detriment to what actually makes Spurn such a special place in the first place. It makes absolutely no sense.

  36. Firstly let me go on record that I am a member of the Spurn Bird Observatory committee. The Observatory has adopted a position on this development and will object to it if a planning application is made in it’s current location.

    The views here are entirely my own and not those of the Observatory.

    Forgive me John if I fail to address you by your title, your actions in committing these comments to the public record do you little favour and I feel you have demonstrated that you are not worthy of the title bestowed upon you.

    Your CV listed at the head of the blog post is indeed impressive and I am therefore shocked that someone with such clear intelligence should be so naïve and easily malleable by the poisonous diatribe spouting forth from the offices of the YWT, are they really your words or merely your signature on something drafted by persons unknown/known?

    Others before me have very eloquently addressed many of the issues regarding this ridiculous proposal but one I still think needs clarification is the lack of trust in the trust. Relations are at an all time low but the ill feeling towards the YWT goes back a long way, in fact all the way to when I first started visiting Spurn in the aftermath of the famous Owl suppression incident. You accurately point out that you have had boots on the ground for decades but I ask you what have you actually done in this time save for collecting money from motorists driving down the peninsula? Let me help you out………not a great deal. Every opportunity to do something positive has been missed through a catalogue of disagreement, clashes of personality and PR disaster.

    You make reference to conflict between visiting birders and the local residents, I doubt you’ll accept but I offer an invitation to visit Kilnsea with me and let’s canvas opinion of these residents and see how much conflict exists towards the birders and also the YWT. I can assure you you’ll be the one going home disheartened at the task ahead if you want to win hearts and minds, not me as a representative of the birders.

    All in all your guest blog on Mark’s site has like all things involving the YWT left a very unsavoury taste in ones mouth and I wonder if you really understand the failings of this organisation both presently and historically. They simply are not fit to be guardians of the wildlife of this magnificent county.

  37. ‘If the other potential locations for the centre could have been proven to have no impact on wildlife and the landscape, be sustainable, give the Trust the ability to control and manage access to Spurn, then we would have leapt at the chance.’

    We did offer to sell our 200+ year old (thus proven rather sustainable) farmhouse next to the proposed site. It is the last existing building along the access road to the nature reserve, which should make visitor management easy enough, and one of very few properties in Kilnsea not affected by the 2013 surge (OK, you got me…moving it would prove difficult). It fits nicely in the landscape, is popular as a resting place for birds and wildlife, comes with ample parking space, a ready made viewing platform, a byre that would make a great ehibition area and ample space for a cafe and offices. The purchase price plus any additional work needed should eaily be covered by £900.000. But, apparently it is not considered a ‘potential location’ as nobody has ever ‘leapt’ at the opportunity to talk to us.

  38. Wow – news indeed Petra. That would make an ideal location, an incredible view, in keeping with the surroundings, no additional footprint….

  39. As the owner of blue bell cottage next door to the existing cafe / current visitors centre , I too have offered to sell the Ywt my place at a huge discount which when combined together makes a huge footprint , with stunning views which I wake up to everyday, this would make a perfect location, it would be a drop in the ocean out of the 900k community funds and the rest could be given back to real worthy community projects. And before the sustainability word is used against this option, I have the east ridings coastal erosion maps that were sent to me when I enquired about roll back which shows the 100 year roll back line at Fourways bungalow , so if that’s not good enough then what is? Because if the coast has eroded to that point then there would be no road to spurn anyway !
    So if sir John Lawton would like to look at the maps and aerial photos I have of the combined plots, I would gladly still offer my house/home to be the alternative location for the new visitors centre, after all my views did get spoilt slightly by eons wind turbines but would be totally ruined by the Ywt’s vc and car parks built with more of eons offerings that should be for us a a community living here.

  40. Scrolling through the plethora of comments above I feel that I have little to add to the table. Nevertheless, I believe that many voices all echoing the same sentiment should send out a powerful message to those who may stumble across this blog.

    I would like to make it quite clear from the start that I am not opposed to improved visitor facilities and a bit more ‘substance’ for those who are not there simply to bird-watch.
    Spurn is a fantastic place, and somewhere that should be made accessible and enjoyable for all those who choose to visit.
    But I feel that throwing (as near as dammit) a million pounds at a brand new visitor centre is overkill, and your continued refusal to listen to the voices of those that matter only serves to further alienate you from the support you so desperately crave.

    Your flippant remark regarding opposition from a small group of local people is both untrue and insulting. The wording used implies that just a handful of stick-in-the-mud yokels are opposing the plans out of spite – and it could so easily be interpreted in this way by those who do not know any better.
    Nothing could be further from the truth. I am not a local – I have to make a 3 hour round trip to visit Spurn. And, as Gareth Picton states, hundreds of people have signed his i-petition and liked his “No to YWT visitor centre” Facebook page. A handful of local people – I think not.

    You also insist that a new visitor centre is needed to ensure the safety of visitors at an increasingly hazardous site. I’m not sure I understand.
    A sign is a sign, regardless of whether you stick it on a fence post or in a visitor centre; people will still choose to ignore or obey the instructions.
    What’s needed are more staff members on the ground, talking to people, engaging with visitors, monitoring behavior and being a visible presence on site.
    I can’t recall the last time I saw YWT staff members walking around the site and engaging with members of the public – aside from the massive influxes that seem to appear out of thin air whenever the press are around!

    As many others have noted, your visitors figures vary wildly from one account to another – is there any valid explanation for this or are you simply plucking random numbers from a bag (perhaps the same bag from which you pick your excuses for not considering the viable alternatives)?

    If, as you quote above, numbers have dropped from 70,000 to just 20,000 per annum since the tidal surge rendered the point inaccessible by car, what do you think this tells us? There was no visitor centre to speak of before the surge – and I’m sure 50,000 people didn’t suddenly decide to shun the reserve in protest of the lack of facilities.
    Unfortunately you must face up to the fact that, now access to the point is so severely limited, you have lost one of the major pulling factors of this site.

    This does not mean, however, that the YWT should wash their hands of the site completely. But rather than clutching at straws in a futile attempt to regain some of the lost custom, you should now focus your efforts on catering for the reduced number of visitors who continue to visit the site, and on improving the habitat for nature (the YWT is a wildlife charity, is it not?).

    The YWT already has what could be a really good visitor centre – The Bluebell. Unfortunately this asset has been completely undervalued and neglected, which is a real shame.
    With a little thought and effort I see no reason why it can’t be turned into a super welcome point for visitors. Other popular nature reserves around the country manage with far more limited facilities than the Bluebell can provide.
    I understand that the YWT have said this particular building is not suitable due to its limited lifespan. Let’s face it – the entire Spurn coast line has a limited lifespan! But while you’ve got the existing building in your hands, why not try to make the most of it?
    Also, as mentioned by two authors above, alternative existing buildings have been made available for purchase – why are these not being considered over a new-build?

    As an outsider looking in, I acknowledge that my voice does not carry as much weight as local villagers. However I do care deeply about Spurn Point and the local area, and would love for somebody to come up with a solution to suit all. (Ok, perhaps that’s a little ambitious – you can’t please everybody!)

    In order to provide a better future for Spurn, it’s residents, and it’s wildlife, I would suggest that the money provided by Eon be shared among a number of different projects, rather than sinking the whole £900,000 into one building.

    I might also suggest that the YWT stop wasting their time building sandcastles and start paying attention to the people that matter.

    Sadly I fear that the views of those at the top are as firmly stuck in the ground as the tyres on their Unimonstrosity…..

  41. Reading through all the posts above I find it amazing none of these points are taken on board by the YWT. While this probably because they have heard them all before and choose to ignore them it would be good to hear this debated properly. Is there anyone reading these comments from the YWT? It would be good to hear their point of view; then again it seems they just don’t have a viable one!

    Personally I do not understand why the Blue Bell and/or adjacent buildings can be used by the YWT. Yes eventually erosion will take its course but this is unlikely to be in the medium term and once this happens who knows how accessible Spurn will be then anyway.

  42. Great post Georgia with some fantastically well made points, particularly the visitor numbers.
    I understand why your feel your voice may feel not carry the weight of a local but I’d suggest the fact you feel empowered enough to object, voice your concerns & opinions is just as powerful as everyone else’s… I just hope the Trust read, digest & act on these & other comments.
    With some compromise & collaboration I still think there are options available in the middle ground & every voice helps.

  43. It is some time since I wrote to Mr.Stoneham regarding YWT’s activities at Kilnsea but the recent outpourings of Professor Sir John Lawton FRS force me to add my thoughts to this blog.
    I suggested to Mr. Stoneham that I am quite happy that there should be a visitor centre at Spurn (not Kilnsea) but that I thought that the YWT were not the organisation to bring this to fruition. My reason for saying this is because the trust seems to be totally incapable of getting the small things right and so I have no confidence in them getting something as big as a visitor centre right.
    The list of YWT’s incompetencies is qute long and well known to those living locally but here are just a few of the things that concern me about the way the YWT operate.

    50+ years of ownership and visitors without providing decent toilet facilities.

    The warning notice which contained the phrase “do not be cross over the sand,” manufactured, checked (?) and erected without anyone correcting the error.
    The artisit’s impression of the proposed visitor centre which appeared in the second newsletter (and again this week in The Holderness Gazette). It was not an artist’s impression but the incompetent fumblings of someone in YWT who knows a little about Photoshop but not quite enough to get rid of trees in the sky which should not be there. Who, I wonder, let such incompetent work into the public realm.

    Visitor safety. The second Spurn newsletter states that a new visitor centre will “improve the safety of Spurn’s visitors”. I have to wonder if the present safety of visitors is so poor (and, credit where credit is due, it is, you are right there YWT) who has been responsible for this over the past half century or more? Actually, I know the answer to this because, in another place, Mr Stoneham has admitted that it keeps him awake at night.

    Visitor safety again. It has been pointed out to the staff at Spurn several times that the number of times that the breach is under water during daylight hours is relatively few and that the breach could be patrolled when this occurs. Does this happen?
    I have spoken with YWT staff about current safety issues and was amazed to be told that “we work office hours”. I suggest that someone in the YWT looks at a tide table. The tides and consequently the dangers caused by highh tides, do not work office hours. Has it not occurred to somebody in the Trust that this is why the emergency services work 24 hours.

    The Blue Bell cafe and its opening hours.

    Barbed wire in inappropriate places.

    The Ugly Mug.

    Who is in charge at Spurn?

    There are more but that is enough to be going on with and so, I am sorry YWT but if this is the way you operate then do you wonder that I have no faith in you running an efficient visitor centre. I suppose I should have added the comments of Sir John to the above list. If anyone in York thinks that his intervention has done anything to improve the current situation in the local area you are very, very wrong.
    In my letter t Mr. Stoneham I made a positive suggestion to the problem of poor public relations in the area. It was this.

    Put your plans for a visitor centre in your briefcase, appoint someone with a proven track record in public relations to work at Spurn and go away for five years and let that person put right the damage you have done.

  44. As a YWT member and a relatively sporadic Spurn visitor (less than 20 visits over as many years) I cannot work out why YWT think that their idea of the siting of the VC is so correct that they are prepared to trample roughshod over local residents, regular birders of the area and others with better knowledge of the case than I have. Lawton’s argument is not one – it is thinly disguised mud slinging. From my limited experience at Spurn I would say that purchasing the house next door to the Bluebell and converting that into a VC would seem to be the most sensible arrangement, arguments about flooding and erosion at the road junction here would mean that the proposed VC would also be inaccessible. Come on YWT listen to what people are saying to you and act sensibly.

  45. Dear Sir John Lawton,

    The Keep Spurn Wild Action Group would like to thank you for sharing your and YWTs thoughts and opinions with regards to Local Residents, Spurn Bird OBs and visiting Birders to Spurn. We would like to take this opportunity to thank those who have contributed to the blog and their over whelming support in opposing YWTs plans for a visitor centre, in Triangle Field.

    Warm regards
    keepspurnwild Action Group

  46. Dear Sir John Lawton,

    My family and I live locally but confess not to be keen birders, but we love spurn for the true wildness and peace and quiet it offers. We probably cannot offer more than has already been said, but would like to offer our own observations.

    Since the tidal surge it is clear that YWT has lost one of its main funding streams, and in an attempt, YWT appear “hell bent” in building a Visitor Centre that no one wants. Lets face it you already own a visitor centre, the Blue Bell. Rather than focus you time on this potential White Elephant, why not channel your time and energy into something that really matters at Spurn, visitor Safety! Pre 2013 there was always a presence on the gate as YWT staff collected the car charges. Since the tidal surge there is a complete absence of staff. Your staff may not be able to collect car charges, but the could advise on visitor safety!!

    in you post you proclaim “So, what is really at the heart of the conflict at Spurn”? If I may be so bold, I will tell you what is at the heart of the matter. as an organisation you are now vilified locally, you and your staff lack any communication skills and have no idea of how to engage locally with the community; perhaps it is time for a change of leadership at the top of YWT. It is this total disregard of the interests of the local population that has left your staff on the ground at spurn isolated and therefore spending much of their day locked away in the security of the Bluebell office, this I am sure you will agree is an appalling situation and needs urgent attention.

    So to close, over the years locals have seen money haemorrhage out of Spurn and into the coffers of YWT York, no wildlife development other than barbed wire fencing, which attracts stewardship funding, no engagement with the local community and you ask “So, what is really at the heart of the conflict at Spurn”? Perhaps Sir John it is time for you to get out of the office and meet locals, then and only then will you understand what is really at the heart of the conflict at Spurn?

    Paul & Helen Wilson

  47. I write this response to John Lawton’s guest blog more in sorrow than in anger. First let me put my cards on the table so that people know where I’m coming from and my potential biases. I was born and brought up in Hull and have been going to Spurn since I was a teenager in the late 60’s. I love the place – it is in my DNA. I have also known John since the 70’s when he was both my tutor and supervisor at York University. I have profound respect for a man who has contributed more to ecological knowledge, nature conservation and environmental politics than any of us could ever hope to do, and although we don’t see each other much these days I still count him as a friend. As an aside, I find the personal attacks on him unfair, given that he is presumably speaking on behalf of YWT.
    I was heavily involved in Spurn during what some might characterise as the halcyon days of the Spurn Heritage Coast project. I have also served on the YWT council. Sadly I no longer live in Yorkshire as I left the county following a very public falling out with the Trust over the management of another Trust reserve. I now sit on the boards of two environmental charities – one national and one local. I don’t wish to rake over much of what has been covered in previous responses but instead would like to consider three issues – governance, business planning and stakeholder engagement.
    In terms of the former I must say that I am a tad surprised that John, as Chair of YWT Council, is engaging in this. The role of Council is to consider strategic direction and priorities and to ensure good governance and compliance with charity law and guidance. The issue of a visitor centre at Spurn is an operational one (albeit a big one) and would normally be fronted by the CEO or a hired PR consultant. One wonders why Council have decided to go over the CEO’s head and engage directly with this.
    In terms of the business planning let us not forget that charities have a fiduciary duty to maximise their income in order to further their charitable objects but equally this has to be balanced against a duty so safeguard the charity against future losses. In general charities need to be much more risk averse than say a hedge fund. It strikes me that what we are looking here is a potentially fatal case of penis envy overlain with a degree of hubris. “They’ve got a visitor centre over their so we’d better have one here and of course we can run it at a profit”. Whilst I have not seen the business plan I would be very surprised if the only way that it stacks up is predicated on an unrealistic, or unsustainable, number of visitors. There are very few visitor centres that don’t run at a loss and those that turn a profit tend to be in much more readily accessible locations and with much wider general public appeal than Spurn. As a charity Trustee I would need some convincing that this project will not become an albatross, draining resources for years to come. We should all be concerned about this because, like it or not, and for all its imperfections, we need a financially secure YWT.
    Finally stakeholder engagement! This is difficult and lengthy if you want to get it right. It strikes me as odd that the YWT council has chosen Mark’s blog as a vehicle to go over the head of those pesky locals who won’t listen to sense! That’s what it looks like at any rate. It just serves to further a “them and us” situation and appears remote and un-listening. Clearly the responses to John’s blog are symptomatic of the problems the YWT have, which incidentally seem to being compounded by the lack of a response from YWT, thus reinforcing the characterisation that they are not listening.
    Engaging with stakeholders is hard work and takes a long time – and so it should. It is best carried out by professionals or at least those that have been trained. Meaningful engagement requires the ability to listen and reflect on stakeholder’s responses. It requires a degree of humility and a genuine negotiating stance which is open to changing, or even abandoning, initial proposals if they do not have sufficient support. It is not about taking yourself at your own valuation, not listening meaningfully and belittling people who genuinely don’t agree with you.

    1. Very well said and very informative indeed. I am pleased to see that someone has noticed that us locals are being treated with such lack of respect in this matter and i applaud you for being the one to notice and explain in a better way than i ever could. I am in total agreement with everythng you have said.

  48. Sir John & YWT, your silence is deafening, you take time to post on a very public platform, but then fail to respond to any of the posts that have been submitted, why is this? Perhaps the posts posted, make you feel uncomfortable, as not one post supports YWT or you Sir John and some are a little direct, to say the least.

    As YWT seem committed to building a Visitor Centre that appears no wants at Spurn, surely you could start to engage now, albeit at the 12 hour. As a large organisation funded by people like me you simply cannot continue to put your heads in the sand and hope the objections go away, this simply won’t happen, and your silence is damaging the already tainted image of YWT.

    Reading between the lines it is apparent that YWT have failed in the most basic fundamental area of public engagement, which has resulted in a catastrophic impact on relationships within the local area and wider community.

    I would also like to ask, in a recent YWT article called “moving into 21st Century” in the Holderness Gazette there is a photo of the proposed visitor centre and the Radio Mast is absent from the photo, is this one of the modified plans you talk about in your blog post, or are you simply attempting to mislead the readers?

    At the end of your post you state “The last thing the Trust wants to do is to damage relationships with local people”. Reading between the lines, I am afraid you are, guilty as charged on this account and your and YWTs behaviour may be beyond redemption locally. If you truly do not want to damage relationships with local people further, then perhaps you need to start listening and communicating with the local people, you never know it may improve your credibility as an organisation.

  49. in 1994, many of the local Birders from Spurn Bird Observatory and Tim Collins from Holderness County Council, helped refurbish the Bluebell for YWT as a Visitor Centre, at no financial cost to YWT. In 1996 once again the Birders from Spurn Bird Obs along with Tim Collins, and local residents planted the plantation by the Triangle field, which is the proposed site of the new visitor centre. Also the locals helped clear the ground from Middle camp to the Point, so water pipes could be laid and also helped YWT cut pathways at the point and at Wire Dump. Unlike today the fences that where erected contained no barbered wire. On a personal note, when there was no local YWT staff on the ground, I used to ensure the sheep where fed in the winter, particularly over the festive period. After the tidal surge myself and other local residents help with the tidal clear up.

    Given the past track record of working together with YWT over the years, I like many are now completely dismayed and bitterly disappointed with YWT. We have gone from a positive working relationship to a totally dysfunctional relationship. YWT have shown little regard to those living locally and treat local people with utter contempt. It is now wonder that relationships have broken down.

    For someone who has worked along side YWT for many years and supported them, I would call upon Sir John Lawson and Rob Stoneman (CEO YWT), to reconsider the Visitor Centre Plans, perhaps “put them on ice” for a few years, and concentrate their efforts on re-engaging locals like myself who have lost confidence. Perhaps the executives at YWT should remember when the alleged 60000 to 70000 visitors visited Spurn, they had only one full time member of staff on the ground who was helped daily by people like myself.

    Finally, Sir John Lawton and Rob Stoneman should note, ‘it is bad practice to bite the hand that feeds you’, as history has demonstrated time and time again that this is a counter productive strategy.

    Steve Exley,
    Kilnsea Resident

  50. John … I feel sure that by now that you will have a much better understanding of the public feeling towards the visitors centre at Spurn and the way it has been handled. In your position as Chairman you need to be able to stand back and take stock of the current situation that the Trust finds itself in and execute a damage limitation strategy for the future security of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. Spurn Bird Observatorys position remains unchanged in that we will strongly object if you apply for planning permission in Triangle Field. However as I have discussed with you and your executives at various meetings in the past and also stated at a number of public events Spurn Bird Observatory Trust Ltd (SBOT) will provide you with unconditional support and assistance if the location is changed to Well Field or similar. A Visitors Centre at Spurn is not the issue just the location for all the many reasons that we have covered previously. There is a real solution to this issue that will win you back the support that you so need … ‘move the location.’ Petra has also offered to sell you her farm adjacent to Well Field which will provide you with an alternative to Triangle Field so the options on relocation are better than ever. Please John listen to the people that know Spurn better than all of us and call me to help you find a way through this mess. As you are well aware Spurn Bird Observatory enjoys huge respect and support from the local and national birding community, Easington and Kilnsea village residents and because of that I am able to offer you a ‘safe haven.’ Also just for the record SBOT do not charge visitors to access their land. All we do is kindly ask for a donation when a rare bird is sighted or caught but with no pressure to do so. The result of this user friendly approach is that nearly everyone gives generously to our cause which is then re-invested in the purchase and development of the much needed migrant habitat at Spurn. Shelter and feeding areas for migrating birds at the top end of Spurn are few and far between so we need to preserve what few we have got and invest in more habitat development for the future. For the record I am a long term member of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and I desperately want to see you succeed. I really hope that you are able to reflect on all that has been said on this blog and move forward with the support of SBOT and the wider community. Remember as Mark Avery said on his blog this morning when it comes to conservation v human enjoyment conservation must always come first.

  51. Dear John,

    I have read through your blog and many of the replies it has received with interest over the last few days and feel I must also reply. I want to state clearly for the record I am NOT a birder, nor am I a particular lover of Spurn. I have however visited on many occasions as I am the wife of a very keen birder and someone who is passionate about Spurn. For me this is not primarily about the wildlife or conservation, although that is incredibly important. For me this is about behaviour.

    I should also state for the record that I am a mother to three children. It is part of my ‘job’ as their mother to instil in them certain values… honesty, openness, respect for people, and the ability to admit when they are wrong. All things that I believe will serve them well in life. I agree that this is a work in progress but then my children are all under the age of 10.

    Occasionally my children lie. They make up things that are not true, or say they didn’t do something, thinking that it’s going to benefit them or get them something they want. They might tell me they wrote a lovely piece of work when it was actually their friend who did it! They nearly always get found out, lies have a way of coming to light don’t you think?! And ultimately they get told off, they learn an important lesson and they know and understand deep down that what they have done is wrong. I wish for them that they continue through life choosing honesty over deceit.

    Sometimes they bicker, argue and talk to each other horribly. They might threaten to tell, call names and say their better than others, but they’re always sad about it afterwards. They know how to treat people, how to show respect and not be rude, and when they sometimes forget their still-intact conscience reminds them – be kind!! Like attracts like…if they’re kind to others people will be kind to them

    Now the biggest pain in my side is their stubbornness. I have taught them to be free-thinkers and express themselves, but their absolute confidence that if they just stick to their guns they’ll get away with whatever it is they’re doing drives me insane. Their view that if they say something enough times it will be accepted. That if they just shout loud enough, stamp their feet hard enough, put their hands on their hips firmly enough that the facts will change in their favour … 8×7 absolutely WILL be 42; Barcelona WILL be the capital of Spain; One Direction WILL be together forever – FACT!!!! They are working on their ability to admit when they’re wrong. To apologise, hold their hands up and say they got it wrong. Especially when facts show it!! They know that sometimes people will disagree with what they think and they understand that communication and compromise is the way to sort out arguments and disagreements. They also understand that they don’t always get their own way. They are growing and developing into fantastic human beings who will, I know, be a credit to me and my husband.

    It’s difficult being a mum and teaching your children important values. It’s a thankless, never ending task. But it is completely, totally, absolutely necessary!!! I am just saddened that they live in a world where these values do not seem to be adopted by everyone.

    Anyway…just the ramblings of a mother doing her best. Don’t know what made me think of them?!?

    Now, let me show you where the naughty step is!!

  52. Sir John,

    Tim Dixon’s post gives me hope that you are a reasonable, very capable person that many conservationists should be indebted to. I also hope you have the courage that I believe your CEO lacks, to admit that we sometimes have to stop, appraise the situation again, gain situational awareness and then develop the best plan before we move on.

    There have already been excellent posts by Jan Crowther, Dave Tucker, Gareth Picton, Garry T and so many others above that I hope you have read, which I will try not to repeat here.

    As a very proud Yorkshireman I have supported the YWT for 35 years, regardless of where my military service took me across the World, believing that the YWT would preserve the county’s wild places in my absence; because I believe the best way of conserving our natural heritage is to own the land that it depends on. I made the effort to attend the July consultation in Easington, convinced that the YWT was going to bring something meaningful to the meeting that would make sense as to why the visitor centre needed to be located in such an unpopular spot. I had predicted it was not going to be easy, but I was genuinely disappointed by the poorly prepared presentation led by Rob Stoneman. It strongly appeared that there was an assumption by the YWT and E.ON that everyone would welcome a £900,000 gift, therefore, job done!

    The meeting could not have started any worse with Rob’s infamous and crass ‘give Kilnsea a reason to exist’ comment [Had to repeat this because I still cannot believe it]. Although I first visited Spurn in 1993 there is a great deal of history that I did not know, which Rob was asked about during the meeting:

    a. I did not hear the YWT provide a single example of any investment at the site during the past 40 years when asked to do so. This looks apathetic to those looking in, until the Trust was offered a large sum of money. Also, if the YWT was concerned that waders were being disturbed at The Warren (which I do not think is as big a problem as your blog suggests), why hasn’t the Trust erected a hide there? At least it could have named a project.

    b. The YWT referred to its revenue from access to The Point. The YWT was not able to provide details of what it had contributed towards the road? A member of ABP at the meeting confirmed that the YWT had not contributed, the ABP had maintained the road that the Trust had charged others to use. This highlights the ‘cash cow’ mentality that others think persists at the Trust.

    c. When challenged about the visitor numbers Rob revised the figures from 60,000-70,000 per annum to 20,000. Rob accepted that this number was actually footfall rather than individual visitors. As you know very well, Spurn is a site that attracts dedicated naturalists, some of whom have in deed made the area their home, and who visit very frequently. The effect of this is to reduce the individual visitor numbers significantly (I can think of 3-4 people that combined would represent 1,000 visits annually on their own). Regular visitors do not need to be educated about the dangers, etc and therefore using the 20,000 figure loses its meaning. By the way, even though the CEO has verbally reduced the visitor figures to 20,000 in July, I note that on 27 November 2015 the YWT is still promoting expected visitor figures of 60,000 per annum on its website (see, which is in my opinion grossly misleading.

    d. I asked Rob to explain how the Trust expected the local economy to be boosted by £20 million (EXTRA) over 25 years. Rob explained that the figures had been provided by a University (I believe York or Leeds). If we divide £20 million by 25 years that is an average of £800,000 per year extra. Divided by the 20,000 visitors this forecasts an ‘ADDITIONAL’ £40.00 per visitor, per day to the local economy. I do not believe this figure, especially as the amount has not been revised since the visitor numbers were reduced. Again the misleading figures still appear on the YWT’s website ( as at 27 November 2015, 4 months after the public consultation meeting. If we revise the EXTRA economic benefit to £6.67 million (or £13.33 extra per visitor, per day), to account for the reduced visitor numbers, I still do not think that these forecasted figures can be proven but I would welcome publication of the Trust’s model?

    What was interesting to observe during the public consultation was the body language of the two E.ON representatives at the meeting, there appeared to be palpable horror on their faces when they looked at each other behind Rob’s back. Presentationally at least, it did not help when the PR representative then left the meeting before the end, having admitted that E.ON had not followed their own promotion literature of consulting with the local community and a Freedom of Information request from the County Council had not supported the project and this was not refuted by E.ON at the meeting and therefore the audience was left to assume to be correct.

    With regards to Tim Dixon’s comment about an albatross, most of us would love to see an albatross at Spurn, but none of us want to see the YWT get into debt. According to the YWT’s website ( the project will benefit visitors for 60 years. What is the maintenance bill for the project over that period? I would also like to know how the Trust is going to finance the 19 jobs and 6 apprenticeships that it is also advertising on its website ( As at 27 November 2015 the national minimum wage for 21 year olds and over is £6.70. Multiplied by 37 hours per week and 52 weeks per year, for 19 new staff a modest wage bill would be £244,925 per year. These are ‘minimum’ wages and, if accurate, will require the YWT to generate c£4,700 extra per week on average to break even, in addition to any increased maintenance costs for a centre. Is it possible to see how this will be achieved? If it has not already done so, perhaps the Trust needs to explore the legality of raising a visitor charge for non-members, as the NWT do at Cley?

    I would like to suggest the YWT quantify the work that volunteers provide in the area and identify why. In my experience most are Spurn Bird Obs/Friend of Spurn members, who control twitches and use their radios to organize and police the area. These members go out of their way to help people and share information. I think the members’ contribution is under estimated by the Trust and under appreciated. Your response to this blog will indicate your personal view.

    With regards to the comments about the YWT Staff at Spurn, most are very good people and I have always appreciated what they do. The projects at Spurn and how people are employed are problems of leadership and Trust priorities.

    I too cannot understand why there seems to be so many dislikes on the replies either, perhaps there is confusion between disliking the project, rather than disliking the contributions?

    Can I request that you ask those responsible for maintaining the YWT website to correct the misleading information on the site, it does not help the Trust and looks as though it is happy to peddle any information that might present this flawed project in a positive light. Better still would be an apology for inaccurate/misleading information, as well as the insults to the people of Easington and Kilnsea who have had the disturbance of the turbine project and the stress of having this project hanging over them for months.

  53. Tim – a great post which I think really focuses on the many major flaws & issues in “the plan” as well as the way it’s being pursued.
    I find it astonishing that in the face of so much well pointed negative criticism the Trust have not been able to attempt to respond. Yet again actions & behaviours of a mismanaged, disconnected organisation, out of touch with its concerned members, its neighbours & the perceptions of many many people looking in.
    The reputational damage this project is causing the trust will be long standing, potentially permanent to many & all on the watch of a CEO & chair who so far have done nothing to recognise the huge objections to the location, the overall project & the attitudes they are demonstrating…
    Thanks for putting so many excellent points across so well…

    1. I find it very strange that Sir John Lawson, Chair of YWT, took the time to create a blog post on Mark Averys Guest page, but not share it on social media. Therefore yesterday, I wrote a short piece on the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust Face Book Page and shared the link so Sir John Lawson’s post could be viewed by others.

      Strangely my post has disappeared and now I am unable to post on YWT Facebook Page. So my question is this Sir John, why take the time to write a blog post, but then not share it with the wider community???

      1. It appears that any perceived negative comments to the VC, the location or the trust results in the post being removed & the poster being blocked. I know of several people blocked from posting now in their page as a result of negative (not insulting) comments.
        I go back AGAIN to actions & behaviours & this is yet more evidence of the trust behaving in a way which is entirely inappropriate.

  54. My wife and I visit Spurn once or twice a year and our primary reason is to seek the solitude Spurn offers. Spurn offers for us a sense of escape from the hustle and bustle of the city and gives use a time to re-charge the batteries.
    We cannot understand how a charitable organisation such as Yorkshire Wildlife (YWT) cannot respect the feelings of others when trying to protect this special landscape, and to be honest your behaviour to date beggars belief. Yes there is a role and place for a visitor centre at Spurn but YWT need to come down from their ivory tower and listen to the public feeling. Up to now YWT are guilty of taking an autocratic stance, riding rough shod over opinion and are now portraying themselves as arrogant organisation, at best! Come on YWT up to now you have demonstrated little in terms of communication and you are at risk of causing irreparable harm not only to the environment but to your own credibility as a Charity. Perhaps it is now time to put the CEO (Mr Stoneman) and chairman (Mr Lawton) to be put on garden leave and let those more in touch with reality and the situation to manage and to start to rebuild relationships with all and sustain the special habitat that already exists at Spurn, before you cause environmental genocide.

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