Campaigners have objected to plans for a new seabird centre at Bempton after failing to win backing for their own campaign against a nearby wind turbine.
A group called Bempton Residents Against Turbines is fighting plans for three turbines, including one 150ft tall just half a mile from the RSPB centre at Bempton.
They have written to the Heritage Lottery Fund, which has so far given the RSPB £33,000 to develop plans to extend the centre, to object, claiming the RSPB has lost sight of its conservation role by not joining the fight against the turbine, which will supply electricity to a pig unit at Norway Farm. The RSPB insists there is no evidence that there will be an impact on seabirds or birds in surrounding farmland.
But David Hinde, who lives in Bempton, and a spokesman for the group, said there were fears that the development could lead to a slew of similar applications on the coast. He said: “Bird lovers will be amazed to find RSPB conservation officers saying that they are intending not to object to a 150ft turbine, the largest single commercial turbine in the Yorkshire Wolds at Cliff Lane, Bempton, less than half a mile from the RSPB Visitor Centre on the Flamborough Heritage Coast.
“This is the first to threaten and open the floodgates on the Flamborough Heritage Coast through precedent, to even more at this height and above. And it will be visible from Filey Brigg and Filey Country Park and The Bay of course.
“The Flamborough Heritage Coast, that RSPB are supposed to be a protective partner in, a tourism partner too, obtain a large amount of their income from RSPB members who proudly display their member sticker on their porch window.
“When the RSPB migration recorder at Buckton tells you that 100,000 migratory birds will be passing in the line of the turbine proposed on their way to Buckton and Bridlington Bay, including whooper swans and the rare pink-footed geese too, as they shortcut across this part of the headland, one questions how this organisation with royal patronage deserves to have a P in its name – or an R for that matter.”
However, site manager at Bempton Ian Kendall said there was no evidence that turbines impacted on birds – be they seabirds or farmbirds.
Mr Kendall said: “As a scientific organisation which we largely are, we can only state facts; the facts are that it is not going to affect the seabird colony at all because they don’t feed on the fields, they feed on the sea.
“We have eight species of seabirds here and they are completely and utterly oceanic. Guillemots, razorbills and puffins are hardly capable of walking on the land; these birds have developed over the millennia to be completely and utterly dependent on the sea.
“Pink-footed geese pass down the coast and they can quite easily see turbines.
“The fact is birds avoid turbines in the same way that they avoid buildings.”
A report by ecologists on behalf of the applicants for the turbine says over 72 species of birds could use the field, including 51 of conservation concern, but says potential impacts through collisions “are limited by the small scale of the development”.
The Heritage Lottery Fund finance has allowed the charity to work up detailed plans for a major extension of its facilities along with Beverley-based Salt Architects.
The aim is to make it an attractive year-round visitor destination with a dedicated learning space and areas for research.
The RSPB will be putting in a bid to the HLF for around £640,000 in June. Mr Kendall said: “We are not at this stage about growing visitor numbers, it is about giving existing visitors a better experience. The aspiration is to create a community space. At the moment if people come to Bempton and the weather is bad there is absolutely no classroom space whatsoever.”
The HLF said the objection had been noted.
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