Should the National Trust advertise the Island’s only nature reserve?
No, is the answer of one group of residents, they want to “keep Newtown for the birds”, and believe the National Trust could be jeopardising the delicate ecosystem by overly promoting it.
Spearheaded by Jim Allaway, The Keep Newtown for the Birds campaigners have written to Isle of Wight Council (IWC) members expressing their “dismay at growing visitor numbers”.
IWC Chair Lora Peacey-Wilcox said she was “horrified” that a National Trust site could be “seriously compromised”.
She added: “Newtown is a wildlife sanctuary – not a leisure centre.”
Deputy Leader at IWC, Stuart Hutchinson referred to the situation as an “unwelcome change of policy” and agreed with the campaigners.
He said: “There are few public spaces on this Island so free of human presence, and setting in place initiatives to attract more will simply diminish what the reserve is intended to deliver. This is a nature reserve – the two key words are nature and reserve.”
Mr Allaway said: “Dogs are often allowed to run freely while the woodlands have been opened up to long-distance walkers and cyclists, driving out wildlife colonies of squirrels, lizards, nightingales and owls.”
“If too many use it, we’ll lose it”, say the campaigners.
A spokesman for the National Trust said: “Our absolute priority at Newtown National Nature Reserve is – and has always been – to ensure wildlife can thrive at this special habitat and that people can continue to enjoy visiting it. We recently proposed some minor changes to the existing workshop space on the site, which will include a basic reception point where visitors are able to find information about the nature reserve and make themselves a hot drink. It’s clearly not a commercial venture and would have little impact on revenues.
“We always appreciate honest views about our plans, and on this occasion we did have some opposition from a group of volunteers. We invited them several times for discussions to listen to their concerns and to reassure them that we would never do anything to compromise conservation.
“Unfortunately, we eventually reached a point with two individuals where the relationship had completely broken down and we felt it was in the interest of both parties to go our separate ways.”