• Fri. Apr 12th, 2024

North East Connected

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‘Hand South Gare over to the community as a natural attraction’ says Anna Turley MP

A nature reserve and visitor destination is the ambition Redcar MP Anna Turley and local community partners would like to see at the South Gare.

Over the past year Anna has been working with charities, the council, and the local community to devise a regeneration proposal for the coastal strip of land, which was then presented to the Development Corporation.

The plans include developing wildlife habitats and improving accessibility and visitor facilities. It would create a visitor destination to sit alongside the industrial renaissance planned for the wider site.

In the consultation on the STDC Masterplan, Anna has called on the corporation to hand responsibility for improving the area to a local partnership of environmental groups and the community to develop the project.

The initial partners working with Anna to develop the proposal include: RSPB, Tees Valley Wildlife Trust, Teesstone Ltd, Industry Nature Conservation Association, Redcar Development Trust, local councillors, along with local volunteers who use the site regularly.

Discussions are also ongoing with Redcar and Cleveland Council, Natural England, Groundworks NE, PD Ports, and the Marine Club.

Commenting on the proposal, Anna said:

“The South Gare is a beautiful natural asset enjoyed by hundreds of people every week, but ownership issues have left the area neglected and undervalued. With some care and attention this could be an important nature reserve and major visitor destination, attracting thousands of visitors.

“Local people and environmental groups have some great ideas to protect wildlife habitats, regenerate neglected areas and make it an even better place to visit. There would be opportunities for local people to develop skills and experience on the project too.

“We sent the proposal to the Development Corporation and the area has since been designated as a Coastal Communities Zones in the masterplan. We urgently want jobs and industry developed on the main SSI site but, if they give the community the responsibility to manage South Gare, we know we can transform this part of our coastline into something that safeguards wildlife that the public can enjoy forever.”

In her submission to the masterplan consultation, Anna said:

“The South Gare, Coatham Sands, and the Marshes, are fantastic local natural assets which already bring lots of enjoyment to the local community. They are areas of local beauty visited by hundreds of people, from bird watchers to dog walkers, every day. Whilst local organisations like Tees Valley Wildlife Trust and the Friends of Redcar are playing a part in maintaining and caring for these great assets, the area as a whole, and especially the South Gare, has suffered from neglect and a lack of cohesive ownership. If they were to be formally treated as community assets and maintained as such, they could be a great community asset.

“I would like to see this area become a formally recognised nature reserve and visitor destination. It should be developed in partnership with organisations like the RSPB who are already working there to support and nurture the local wildlife, such as the protected Little Tern which they are trying to re-establish. Together with the Tees Valley Wildlife Trust, Teesmouth Bird Club and INCA they should be engaged to develop proposals.

“Heritage assets such as the South Gare battery and the Teesmouth Lifeboat Station, both at the South Gare, could connect in to the wider steel heritage trail planned for the development area. There are lots of possibilities to protect the nature here and enhance access to make it a great visitor destination. In terms of how this can be achieved, I think a partnership of environmental groups and the local community with a stake in the area would be the best vehicle to deliver this. It would ensure that it is fully community led and that it benefits the local area. Some of the maintenance work would be a continuation of what TVWT and others are already doing. Other aspects, such as improvements to the road up to the South Gare, could be achieved through the managing group applying for grants. In the longer term, there is scope of the former lifeboat station to be reopened as a visitor’s centre, education hub or café, thereby helping to generate income.”

David Braithwaite, Senior Site Manager at RSPB Saltholme near Stockton-On-Tees said:

“The River Tees estuary is home to some very special wildlife and this project at South Gare offers the prospect of really making a difference in securing a wonderful nature reserve for people to enjoy. The RSPB is in full support of ensuring that nature is cared for. We see 80,000 visitors a year to Saltholme on the other side of the river to South Gare and I can quite see that the Gare will be similarly popular. The exciting plans will see visitors carefully managed to ensure that the beautiful flowers, dynamic insects, magnificent seabirds and all the rest flourish while people learn to appreciate and value the fabulous diversity.”