Many Mail readers will have followed closely the row over plans by the RSPB to charge visitors £5 to park at South Stack. I have been deeply uncomfortable about the proposed charge.
I wrote last month to the head of the RSPB in Wales, and met her at South Stack at the beginning of last week. I asked for a rethink, highlighting the importance of South Stack to the people of Holyhead and Anglesey, and asking for a more sensitive plan to be developed.
I suggested a number of models – from an annual pass for local users to separate long and short-term parking areas, or varied pricing. I also asked that proceeds should be shared with the social enterprise running the lighthouse – after all, that’s why many go to South Stack, as wonderful as the birdlife there is.
I listened to the RSPB, too. I was told there was no real alternative. Their grant funding has reduced over the years, and they need to make South Stack sustainable. The charge would be £2.50 out of peak season, not £5. It would be free before 9 and after 5 – ideal for regular local visitors and dog-walkers etc. (positive information that the RSPB should have publicised, surely?). But I still wanted compromise.
Thankfully, a strong campaign had grown since the proposed charge became public, and I’m grateful for all those who lobbied the RSPB hard. Later last week, the RSPB said they would now introduce a £20 annual pass, available to residents of Ynys Cybi. It’s a start, but not yet enough. It’s still a fair amount to stump up, and the net could be cast wider. There’s also the issue of sharing proceeds. But we do now have some movement.
So let’s continue to use the power of persuasion… and I’d also like the RSPB to use the power of research so they can work out much better how the charge would affect local users and affect their income, including by visitors to their cafe, for example.
South Stack may belong legally to the RSPB, but we on Anglesey know it belongs to all of us really.