To walk along the cliffs of RSPB South Stack on a late summer evening provides the release from everyday stresses. The scenes on offer are what photographer’s dreams are made of; a deeply red-coloured sky fading away in the distance, choughs criss-crossing mid-air. Although the nesting seabirds – puffins, razorbills and guillemots - have now left the cliffs there’s still plenty to see. The reserve is now in bloom. The heather and gorse form a carpet of pink, purple and yellow, a wonderful sight against the backdrop of the blue Irish Sea. The dry weather seems to have benefited our butterfly population and numbers are up this year. Pete, our shepherd, and his dogs are up on the mountain daily with our flock of 120 Hebridean sheep. They are grazing selected parts of the mountain to help keep the grass short for choughs, the red-billed crow for which the Welsh coast is internationally-important. Porpoises and dolphins are regularly spotted in the water off Ellin’s Tower too.
We’ve seen unusual visitors this summer. Orcas were seen from the reserve in June, and from the fin-shape, we know that they are members of the British population who are often seen in the west coast of Scotland. The beautiful rare, snowy owl was spotted again on the reserve in early July, after making a first appearance in March. She has been seen in a few locations on Anglesey this year, the first since 1972!
Building for the future
Despite being perched in such a dramatic location with incredible wildlife and iconic views, the current facilities are not fit for purpose. Following years of harsh weather, South Stack’s current visitor and working facilities are crumbling away. For this reason, we have submitted a planning application to improve them.
The existing two storey structure which houses the reserve offices, staff welfare facilities and public toilets at RSPB South Stack Visitor Centre is dilapidated. Part of the building suffered from major damage caused by a couple of winter storms, the café kitchen needs an upgrade to serve tens of thousands of meals every year, and the visitor toilets need to meet the current regulations. We’ve patched up the building for enough years, but since a storm almost two years ago, have been forced to close part of this building as it was unsafe, and the team has been working out of a temporary cabin.
We are proposing to partially demolish 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 new building will include café seating area, visitor toilets and storage on the ground floor. The first floor will provide facilities for volunteers and local staff to continue their work of keeping the reserve a special place for nature and for visitors. The development will offer much-improved facilities for staff and for the 185,000 annual visitors, offering a ground-to-ceiling view through the café to open-up the dramatic South Stack spectacle.
The proposal will also replace an existing septic tank with a new sewage treatment plant. Having worked closely with Natural Resources Wales, the position and type of sewage treatment will dramatically improve the current system which is reaching the end of its life.
Should the planning application be granted, the visitor centre and the children’s play area will be closed for several months through next winter and spring. We are exploring whether we can provide temporary catering, but parking will still available, though more restricted than usual.
We are really excited about the plans for South Stack. We know it is a valued destination for local people and the island’s many tourists; the RSPB facilities provide employment for local people and volunteers who share their passion for the place with the reserve’s many visitors. It deserves facilities to match its popularity. A reserve already brimming with everlasting memories will be given a new lease of life so our future generations can visit and create their very own.
If you have any further questions relating to the planning applications, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ve read all of that time after time before. But you can’t get away from the fact that local people are very upset with the RSPB over the proposed car park charges especially with the RSPB going ahead with this appeal. If the RSPB win this appeal, relationships with local people and the local authority will be very very strained, although I did support the RSPB over this at the beginning of this situation. But in some ways, I wish the RSPB hadn’t gone on with this appeal.
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