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Bangor Mail - - RSPB SOUTH STACK - An artist’s im­pres­sion of the new vis­i­tor cen­tre at RSPB South Stack

WITH an­other win­ter upon us – not to men­tion pre­vi­ous years of harsh weather and the dev­as­ta­tion and dam­age caused by re­cent storms Emma, Ali and Eleanor – it’s fair to say that South Stack has taken a fair beat­ing over the years.

How­ever, a re­cent de­ci­sion by Isle of Anglesey County Coun­cil to ap­prove our plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tion for part de­mo­li­tion of the ex­ist­ing vis­i­tor cen­tre, to­gether with al­ter­ations and ex­ten­sions, means that we can now fi­nally im­prove our in­fra­struc­ture to pro­vide a pro­vide fa­cil­i­ties lo­cal res­i­dents and vis­i­tors with a Vis­i­tor Cen­tre they can be proud of.

Hav­ing patched up the vis­i­tor cen­tre for many years, the cur­rent vis­i­tor and work­ing fa­cil­i­ties on the re­serve are now crum­bling away.

The ex­ist­ing two-storey struc­ture, which houses the re­serve of­fices, staff wel­fare fa­cil­i­ties and pub­lic toi­lets at the Vis­i­tor Cen­tre, has reached the end of its nat­u­ral life.

The build­ing is no longer fit for pur­pose; is out­dated and has nu­mer­ous leaks and tem­po­rary re­pairs that need a long-term so­lu­tion. Also, these build­ings were not built with the in­ten­tion of sup­port­ing the num­ber of vis­i­tors now com­ing to South Stack.

When the orig­i­nal café was built, foot­fall was lower and there were lo­cal au­thor­ity pub­lic toi­lets that served the non-café vis­i­tors. These toi­lets no longer ex­ist and the only fa­cil­i­ties now on site are those pro­vided by the RSPB in the vis­i­tor cen­tre. Con­se­quently, we need to up­grade the on-site sewage treat­ment. What will the work en­tail?

The build­ing de­sign and vi­su­al­i­sa­tions for the vis­i­tor cen­tre has been pre­pared by YGC (Ymg­y­n­gho­ri­aeth Gwynedd Con­sul­tancy) Ar­chi­tects based in Caernar­fon.

Close co­op­er­a­tion be­tween YGC and the RSPB has meant that the fi­nal de­sign has in­cor­po­rated our re­quire­ments for the cen­tre while also be­ing sym­pa­thetic to the land­scape.

The work will in­volve par­tially de­mol­ish­ing the two-storey struc­ture and part of the sin­gle-storey struc­ture, re­plac­ing them with a pur­pose-built, mod­ern fa­cil­ity to in­clude much-needed in­su­la­tion to deal with the colder months and clifftop winds; dou­ble glazed win­dows through­out, and tech­nol­ogy to help save and treat wa­ter. The 252m² de­vel­op­ment will of­fer much-im­proved fa­cil­i­ties for staff and vol­un­teers to con­tinue their work of keep­ing the re­serve a spe­cial place for na­ture and for the 185,000 an­nual vis­i­tors.

The new build­ing will in­clude café seat­ing area, of­fer­ing a ground-to­ceil­ing view through the café to open-up the dra­matic South Stack spec­ta­cle. The café will also be more ac­ces­si­ble and will be on one level, rather than the cur­rent split level.

There will also be new vis­i­tor toi­lets and stor­age on the ground floor and we will re­place an ex­ist­ing sep­tic tank with choughs pere­grine fal­con ravens sky­larks meadow pip­its rock pip­its stonechats wren gan­nets curlew kestrel por­poise lin­nets a new sewage treat­ment plant.

Dur­ing the build­ing work, the vis­i­tor cen­tre and the chil­dren’s play area will be closed for sev­eral months, from March through to Sum­mer 2019. We are ex­plor­ing whether we can pro­vide tem­po­rary cater­ing, but park­ing will still be avail­able. We will pro­vide more in­for­ma­tion about the tim­ing of the works, and the short-term ef­fects on vis­i­tors dur­ing the win­ter, in the com­ing weeks. How much will the build­ing work cost and how will we pay for it?

We cur­rently es­ti­mate the to­tal cost of build to be around £830,000.

The RSPB is cur­rently look­ing to cover around £570k of this and hopes to be suc­cess­ful in ob­tain­ing grants to cover the re­main­ing £260K.

This cov­ers the cost of de­mo­li­tion, build­ing costs, new toi­lets, new sewage treat­ment works, pro­fes­sional fees and sur­veys.

In the cur­rent dif­fi­cult eco­nomic cli­mate - and with so much un­cer­tainty about fu­ture fi­nanc­ing – do­na­tions and grants are in de­cline, and char­i­ties such as the RSPB are hav­ing to make dif­fi­cult choices about in­come gen­er­a­tion.

We’re very grate­ful to fun­ders who pay for as­pects of our work at South Stack and to our mem­bers who sup­port us fi­nan­cially with their an­nual sub­scrip­tions.

What is cer­tain is that, with­out con­tin­ued in­vest­ment and im­prove­ment, the cur­rent fa­cil­ity would not have been able to func­tion as a vis­i­tor’s cen­tre at South Stack for much longer.

Our ba­sic man­age­ment costs on site are in ex­cess of £200,000 a year, man­ag­ing the coastal heath­land and fields for its spe­cial wildlife, in­clud­ing choughs, sil­ver-stud­ded blue but­ter­flies and South Stack flea­wort, a flower found nowhere else in the world.

Of course, the café and shop at the site do help to off­set some of these costs.

South Stack sees fewer vis­i­tors in the win­ter, but we re­main com­mit­ted to be­ing open all year round.

The wildlife in our coun­try­side re­mains un­der con­sid­er­able pres­sure from a grow­ing num­ber of threats. Con­se­quently, the amount of work that the RSPB and other con­ser­va­tion or­gan­i­sa­tions have to do is in­creas­ing an­nu­ally. The cost of this work grows an­nu­ally too.

The RSPB is not alone among pub­lic, pri­vate and third sec­tor or­gan­i­sa­tions who are now hav­ing to turn to car park charg­ing or en­trance fees as a means of se­cur­ing the fu­ture de­vel­op­ment of their sites.

Ev­ery penny raised from the car park charge will be in­vested in South Stack.

We fully ap­pre­ci­ate that the de­ci­sion to im­ple­ment car park charges at the re­serve for non­mem­bers has been con­tro­ver­sial and di­vi­sive.

Over the course of the year, we have lis­tened to a wide range of views ex­pressed about our charg­ing pro­pos­als and we’ve re­sponded to the pub­lic’s opin­ion by tri­alling a more flex­i­ble charg­ing struc­ture and con­ces­sion­ary rate for Anglesey res­i­dents.

With the ben­e­fit of hind­sight, per­haps our rea­sons for rais­ing the money needed to im­ple­ment these plans, and to con­tinue our con­ser­va­tion work, were not as well ex­plained or as pub­li­cised as they might have been. There should have been bet­ter li­ai­son and con­sul­ta­tion.

How­ever, with the re­cent Plan­ning In­spec­tor’s de­ci­sion to per­mit this work, we trust that the rea­sons for ad­di­tional in­come gen­er­a­tion will be­come ev­i­dent as the work pro­gresses.

We know that South Stack is a very spe­cial place for lo­cal peo­ple, as well as Anglesey’s many tourists. The cur­rent RSPB fa­cil­i­ties pro­vide em­ploy­ment for lo­cal peo­ple and vol­un­teers who share their pas­sion with the re­serve’s many vis­i­tors.

It, there­fore, de­serves the en­hanced fa­cil­i­ties to match its pop­u­lar­ity, so that an al­ready renowned re­serve can be given a new lease of life.

Be­fore we leave 2018, we’d like to take this op­por­tu­nity to wish you all a Merry Christ­mas and a happy and healthy New Year. Nadolig Llawen a Bl­wyd­dyn Newydd Dda i chi gyd.

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