Recommendations for access changes on East Devon’s Pebblebed Heaths, also known as Woodbury Common, were given the seal of approval by the South East Devon Habitat Regulations Executive Committee (SEDHREC) last week.
Following the publication of an advisory report commissioned by East Devon Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust (EDPHCT) and SEDHREC, a public consultation was held between September and November 2019, where residents and visitors were asked to share their views on proposed improvements. The proposals were designed to enhance visitor experiences and at the same time protect wildlife and heritage sites, by:
- Improving access for emergency vehicles to reduce response times.
- Installing sensitively designed information boards with maps and route markers for suggested trails.
- Improving car park accessibility and layout while at the same time helping to protect ancient monuments and wildlife.
- Improving car park surfaces and entrances for improved safety.
- Not introducing car parking charges.
- Increasing visibility in car parks to reduce theft, criminal incidents and antisocial behaviour.
Chair of SEDHREC and Deputy Leader for East Devon District Council, Cllr Susie Bond, said: “Thank you to everyone who shared their views during the public consultation. We have listened very carefully to these views. The majority of people are in favour of these changes, including keeping parking free of charge, improving car park surfaces and installing way marked trails.
“There were some concerns raised about height barriers, which we have taken into account. We have compromised by recommending some height barriers are locked open. If problems arise, these barriers could be closed. In response to concerns about reducing car parking spaces at Castle car park, this will not take place and appropriate parking spaces will be saved at Estuary View car park instead.”
Dr Sam Bridgewater, Head of Wildlife and Conservation for Clinton Devon Estates, said:
“The Pebblebed Heaths are much loved by East Devon residents as a site to escape and enjoy nature. Over 3,000 species have been recorded from the site, many of which are nationally rare. Each year 400,000 visits are made to the heaths, with this figure set to increase as new houses are built locally. Heathlands are amongst the nation’s rarest habitats and are sensitive to disturbance.
“We welcome the broad acceptance of these access proposals as they reconcile protecting the nature that makes the site so special whilst respecting the access that everyone loves. The adoption of these plans will help ensure that the heaths continue to be rich in wildlife whilst continuing to support local health and wellbeing far into the future.”
In April 2020 at their next meeting, SEDHREC will review costings and decide on priorities for implementing recommendations.
The report and SEDHREC’s response to the consultation can be viewed online: https://www.southeastdevonwildlife.org.uk/visitors/
Decisions made by SEDHREC are subject to a call-in by the three councils for a period of 5 days following the meeting, until Tuesday 4th February.