A CONCERNED group of residents have held a meeting in a bid to save Ynyslas visitor centre, which is due to close later this year.

Locals and concerns ‘Ynyslas lovers’ from as far afield as Sheffield met with Ceredigion MS Elin Jones and county councillor Hugh Hughes to discuss the future of the popular visitor centre, which attracts 250,000 visitors a year.

A new Senedd petition has been set up and members are calling on Natural Resources Wales to meet with the local community.

Ynyslas Visitor Centre
Ynyslas Visitor Centre attracts 250,000 people annually (Cambrian News)

Polly Ernest from the Save our Centre group said: “NRW claimed they would continue with their statutory requirements to protect the site. However, members of the public pointed out that the staff at the centre are integral to protecting wildlife and the environment.

“They also play an important safety role and are essential to the nature education element of the site.

“Without proper management and vigilance, the delicate biodiversity at Ynyslas could be destroyed overnight.

“There is concern over an influx of unregulated campervans, large groups of motorbikes, poachers and people generally not understanding the importance of protecting the dunes.

“The hastily convened ‘Achub ein Canolfan - Ynyslas - Save our Centre’ group opposes the closure and is demanding that NRW meet the local community, discuss their plans transparently and rethink their strategy.

Ynyslas Visitor Centre
NRW is reviewing the future of Ynyslas Visitor Centre (Cambrian News)

“The activists are of the opinion that the Visitor Centre and the site as a whole is commercially viable, with parking fees bringing in significant revenues. However, without having met NRW, no one really knows what is going on. The group maintains that the site and the centre are inextricably linked and cannot be separated from each other.”

Speaking following the meeting, Ceredigion MS, Elin Jones, said: “I was glad to hold a discussion with local users of the Ynyslas Visitor Centre.

“Obviously everyone is disappointed that NRW may be withdrawing from running this centre.

“As NRW has suggested, there was some expression of interest in a community takeover of the Centre at the meeting and I will now be looking to facilitate a meeting between the community, the local councillor, Hugh Hughes and NRW to explore next steps.”

Speaking on the futures of Ynyslas Visitor Centre and centres at Bwlch Nant yr Arian and Coed y Brenin near Dolgellau, Natural Resources Wales said: “We know 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 do, what we stop, and what we slow or do differently to fulfil our Corporate Plan ambitions.

“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. Our review focuses on the offer at our visitor centre buildings and their curtilage – car parks, for example.

“The National Nature Reserves and Forests around visitor centres are key sites for us.

“There is no question that we want to conserve and protect these sites so that nature can recover, and we are unequivocal that public access to these sites will be maintained.

“We will continue to carry out all statutory duties, and will consider the indirect effects of any recommendations.

“Over the coming months we’ll be drawing up options and recommendations for their future, based on our evidence collated and also feedback from users such as yourself.

“The final decisions for 2024/25 will be made by our Board before the end of March.

“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.”