THE future of three visitor centres is under threat as environment bosses look to cut costs.

The Cambrian News reported on Thursday that a petition has been set up to save Ynyslas Visitor Centre from closure, with the move being called ‘nothing short of a wildlife disaster’.

Natural Resources Wales, who run the Ynyslas centre, confirmed on Thursday evening that it is conducting a review into all three of its visitor centres as it looks to cut costs.

This includes Bwlch Nant yr Arian near Aberystwyth, famous for its daily red kite feeding sessions and Coed y Brenin near Dolgellau, which is a popular destination with mountain bikers.

Responding to criticism of plans to close Ynyslas Visitor Centre, Elsie Grace, Head of Sustainable Commercial Development for NRW, told the Cambrian News: “Our visitor centres are a much-loved resource among locals and visitors from further afield and the staff who operate them are rightly considered to be the face of NRW.

“However, public funding is exceptionally tight across the whole of the UK.

“As such, we are having to look across all of our remit and critically review what we can and must continue to do, what we stop and what we slow.

“This is no different to any other public sector body at the moment.

“Our visitor centres are part of this review, but no decision has yet been made on how they will operate in the future.

“Over the coming months we’ll be drawing up options and recommendations for the future and the final decisions for 2024/25 will be made by our board before the end of March.”

Bwlch Nant yr Arian
Bwlch Nant yr Arian between Goginan and Ponterwyd is famous for its red kite displays (NRW)

There had been claims that the Ynyslas Visitor Centre would close at the end of December, but Ms Grace said: “We will continue to operate Ynyslas for this financial year, as we review our recreation offer. In practical terms this means that we open the Visitor Centre as usual between January and the end of March.“

The closure threat has been called a ‘retrograde’ step and dubbed a ‘foolhardy proposal’ by former Ceredigion MP and Borth resident, Mark Williams.

Ceredigion MS, Elin Jones, has also spoken of her concern and is seeking an emergency meeting with NRW.

Ms Jones told the Cambrian News: “Myself and Ben Lake MP have asked NRW for an urgent meeting. Any potential permanent closure of important centres in Ceredigion require meaningful consultation with local communities. These centres are valued community assets and need to be respected as such. We are seeking an emergency meeting with NRW to discuss Ynyslas and other centres in Ceredigion, such as Nant yr Arian.”

Concerns have also been raised over the future of Coed y Brenin.

Coed y Brenin
Coed y Brenin was the UK's first purpose-built mountain biking centre (Cambrian News)

Dwyfor Meirionnydd politicians, Mabon ap Gwynfor MS and Liz Saville Roberts MP said: ''Visitor centres operated by Natural Resources Wales bring a wealth of recreational and economic benefits to the communities in which they’re located.

“We are therefore concerned to learn that the future of these centres, including the extremely popular Coed y Brenin in our constituency, are under review.

“Coed y Brenin is a much-loved centre amongst local people and visitors, supporting local jobs and bringing significant investment into the Meirionnydd economy.

“It is the UK’s first purpose-built mountain biking centre, is the starting point for walking and running trails, and attracts thousands of visitors from far and wide. Any potential talk of changing how these centres operate or their long-term future will understandably concern our constituents.

“We will be asking Natural Resources Wales (NRW) for a meeting at the earliest opportunity.

“They must be prepared to work openly and creatively with local communities to ensure these fantastic resources continue to serve local people and the visitor economy alike.''

Cllr Delyth Lloyd Griffith added: ‘’As the local councillor, this news has come as a shock. Coed y Brenin is an important local employer in the area. The centre’s future is vitally important along with the employment opportunities it brings.’’

Ynyslas Visitor Centre
Ynyslas Visitor Centre attracts 400,000 people annually (Supplied)

A petition calling for Ynyslas Visitor Centre to remain open has picked up 2,000 signatures in as many days.

A former visitor centre officer, Cian Llywelyn, said: “Amid a nature and climate crisis, it is remarkable that Natural Resources Wales are choosing to close Ynyslas Visitor Centre within the Dyfi National Nature Reserve.

“As an internationally important mudflat, the largest dunescape in Ceredigion, and the nesting site of vulnerable wading birds, this site is invaluable for both nature and people. “Over 400,000 visitors travel to the reserve every year to enjoy its spectacular wildlife and exceptional natural beauty, begging the question of how the closure of the centre can be justified.

“At this site, visitor centre staff are vital in maintaining the delicate balance of tourism honey-pot and fragile habitat. NRW’s decision to close this centre is shocking, and I am deeply concerned about the impact this will have on the environment, as well as the local community.”