National seabird research centre planned at Bempton

Image caption Puffins are amongst the 200,000 seabirds that nest on Bempton Cliffs.

A wildlife charity aims to develop a national seabird research centre at Bempton Cliffs.

The RSPB have secured an initial grant of £30,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to plan the redevelopment of the cliff-top reserve.

Proposals include a new indoor learning centre and funding for additional staff to carry out research in to the seabirds that inhabit the area.

If further funding is secured the centre is scheduled to open in 2014.

The first round of funding will be used to produce architects drawings for the site and plan the research and activities.

A further bid of around £500,000 will be made to the Heritage Lottery Fund and if successful, building work will start in winter 2013.

Ian Kendall, the manager of the RSPB Bempton Cliffs reserve, said the money would expand the work of the centre.

"At the moment there is no indoor space at all on the reserve. A new centre means we will be able to run events when the weather is bad."

The reserve is located just to the north of Bridlington, East Yorkshire. It was established in 1969 and is home to one of the UK's largest populations of seabirds.

In summer more than 200,000 gannets, kittiwakes and puffins nest on the vertical cliff-face.

Mr Kendall said the centre already carried out research but the additional funding would enable them to harness technology, such as satellite tracking, to expand their knowledge of seabird behaviour.

He said: "Looking into the health of the colony is something we do every year looking at how many chicks every single bird produces.

"What we are trying to do more and more now is trying to find out where the birds are going when they are feeding."

As well as research the proposed centre will cover the history of exploitation of the seabird colony, including the now banned practice of "climming", when locals would climb down the cliffs to collect the birds' eggs.

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