St. Mary’s Seal Watch Statement
Tuesday November 21st was the day when a big decision on the future of our Local Nature Reserve and the wildlife it supports was decided and a message sent that it is worth speaking out for wildlife protection.
SMSW put its evidence to the Planning Committee and it voted 5 to 2 to reject the application on the grounds that it could not be demonstrated (due to the viewing platforms) that the benefits of the whole application outweighed its detrimental ecological impact.
St. Mary’s Seal Watch (SMSW) has always and will continue to support the restoration of the Lighthouse and sympathetic improvements to the Visitor Centre and we welcome better educational facilities. We have worked with North Tyneside Council since 2015 supporting their Heritage Lottery Fund bid in the hope that it would preserve a healthy balance between the wants of development and the needs of the ecology on this site and offer improved wildlife watching facilities, always stressing the need for these be fit for purpose.
Our role is primarily to safeguard the wildlife so precious to our Local Nature Reserve and it was worrying to see it becoming a victim of the economic model prescribed to wildlife protection today and urged decision makers to put the wellbeing of our local ecology at the heart of their decisions.
We repeatedly advised Council Officers to acknowledge site specific evidence and listen to the concerns of all those that care about and enjoy the wildlife on this Nature Reserve. We, other conservation groups and 400 plus members of the community raised concerns that the viewing platforms proposed as part of the Councils Sea Front Master Plan failed to meet a good standard as a wildlife watching facility and their use would be detrimental to the islands biodiversity. There is a big difference between roof top terraces and a wildlife watching hide that conceals the user from the wildlife thereby minimising disturbance.
The principle elements of this application, mainly the restoration of the Lighthouse and former Keepers Cottage and improvements to the Visitor Centre and education facilities, could be carried out without the platforms, providing all the benefits whilst ensuring no additional detrimental impact to the wildlife.
Had North Tyneside Council listened they would have walked away with a very different decision.
We had no alternative but to challenge this application. Something none of us wanted to do and had hoped that the many consultations we attended with Council Officers would have prevented such necessity.
We now hope to work with North Tyneside Council to move forward to achieve sympathetic restoration and improvements to this much-loved amenity in a way that is fitting to a development on a wildlife sensitive site. And who knows we might even get some much-needed fit for purpose wildlife watching facilities.
We would like to thank everyone who spoke up for the wildlife and gave it a voice.