Plans for a wildlife centre at Gouthwaite Reservoir which intended to provide opportunities for people to engage with and discover more about wildlife and the spectacular landscape of Nidderdale have ceased.
During the planning application process for the proposal in October 2017 concerns were raised that insufficient consultation had taken place. The project team, led by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and the Nidderdale Birdwatchers Group responded by organising a second series of consultation events in January 2018. The events were well attended by local people and the project team were heartened by the results of the online survey which found that 88% of respondents were supportive of the plans.
It therefore came a surprise to other project partners to learn that Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty had decided to withdraw its support for the proposal, following consultation with members of its Joint Advisory Committee’s Executive and others.
The decision comes as a bitter disappointment to a great many people who have made a substantial investment in the project over many months. Unfortunately without the support of the AONB the current proposal is unviable. Bernie Higgins, living landscapes manager at Yorkshire Wildlife Trust said:
”Projects like this are always difficult to get off the ground. What is particularly sad about this outcome is that the opportunity to reconnect people with nature at a nationally important wildlife site, which is so urgently needed, will be missed.
“Research has found that seven-out-of-ten people feel they are losing touch with nature and an estimated 13 per cent of people said they had not even been to the countryside for more than two years. This would have provided a fantastic facility to address this issue.”
The AONB has stated that they remain committed to the objective of increasing awareness and understanding of Upper Nidderdale’s wildlife and will continue to actively explore alternatives. Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and the Nidderdale Birdwatchers will be discussing what options may be available to salvage something from this situation.
Sue Harrison, chair of Nidderdale Birdwatchers said:
“We are incredibly disappointed that the project will no longer be going ahead. Our volunteers have put in very many hours developing this project with the AONB and other Project partners over the last 5 years, and it is a great shame that the vocal few have had the greater sway. We are very passionate about inspiring people, particularly younger generations who are becoming increasingly disconnected from wildlife. This scheme would have been a wonderful extension to our work with schools and young people, and we remain hopeful that our vision may eventually be realised. “