The visitor centre and car park at St Aidan’s nature reserve in Great Preston has been closed following issues over land ownership.
The RSPB opened the site in May 2013, as the charity was due to take over the lease when land was transferred from Harworth Estates to Leeds City Council – a move it believed was imminent.
However, owing to a number of legal issues, the site is still owned by Harworth Estates, leading to the RSPB removing its signs and closing the centre and car park. The number of RSPB staff on site has also been reduced.
The charity will smaintain St Aidan’s in good condition for the wildlife and the site will remain open to the public while the issues are resolved.
Darren Starkey, RSPB Aire Valley site manager, said: “The land is currently owned by Harworth Estates and isn’t yet an RSPB site. To lessen any confusion over land ownership, we will be removing RSPB-branded signs from St Aidan’s and reducing our staff presence on site.
“St Aidan’s was opened under the belief that transfer of the land to Leeds City Council – and subsequent lease to the RSPB – was imminent. Unfortunately, a number of issues around the land transfer are unresolved, hence we have not yet taken up the lease.
“Harworth Estates is currently working with Leeds City Council to resolve these issues. But until the land has transferred and we have secured a lease, we cannot run visitor operations on site, and therefore the car park and visitor centre has had to close.
“In the meantime, we will continue to do some habitat management work to ensure the site remains in a good condition for wildlife.
“Members of the public can still access 12km of footpaths, bridleways and cycle routes at St Aidan’s and we strongly encourage people to continue visiting the site to enjoy the outdoors and get closer to nature.”