An important wildlife charity, which sees more than 80,000 visitors a year, is hoping people will still flock to support the town’s two local reserves, despite new charges being brought in to help support the work it does.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is bringing the new payments in nationally following concerns over what funding it will get after Brexit, the effect of recent changes to GDPR and the ways charities can contact people, and a potential lack of trust from people following negative stories in the national press.
The changes will see a machine at RSPB Freiston Shore charge visitors £2 to park and visit the reserve, while Frampton Marsh, which includes the visitor centre, will be £2 per adult and £1 per child with the first child free. However, entry to the latter will be free when the centre is closed.
Members of the RSPB will still get in free - and there are a range of concessions available to those. The charges will see the RSPB come into line with other visitor attraction charities such as the National Trust. Senior sites manager at the RSPB in Boston John Bradley said: “We would rather we didn’t have to do this, but it’s a sad reflection of where we are at this time.
“The withdrawal of funding is a probability for the future. We haven’t had funding withdrawn at this stage but there’s a risk. There is quite a lot of concern over Brexit, GDPR and the way charities are allowed to use data, and the effect of trust and other factors from negative press around other charities.
“It’s a bit of a whammy that at the same time that makes it harder for us to contact people and a lot of bad publicity about charities.
“There’s a lot of reasons why we’re concerned about the future for being able to generate enough income to support the work we do.
“We don’t quite cover those costs already, and these two charges are ways that we are trying to cover some of those costs.”
He said there was some flexibility about what scale of charges nationally, with Minsmere - where the BBC’s Springwatch is filmed - charging £9 per adult and £4.50 for children. However, he acknowledged ‘there is loads more to do there’.
Mr Bradley said it costs approximately £200,000 a year to fund the two reserves at the moment, and that includes staffing, equipment, cattle protection, fencing, and other maintenance to things like the visitor centre, the more than six kilometres of footpaths and the four birdwatching huts. The reserve also has to pay towards anti-social behaviour such as clearing up fly-tipped sofas and litter including smashed glass bottles.
Mr Bradley says that £200k figure still sees a deficit on what the reserves need to continue their works.
In comparison, Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust states it charges £1 for two hours at its Gibraltar Point nature reserve of £3 for the day.
There is also a small charge for its reserve at Snipe Dales, near Spilsby.
Car parking charges at LWT’s Whisby nature reserve in North Kesteven apply daily, 10am to 4pm. From October to February they are £1, March to September £2. Income from the parking charges support the work across the sites.