Improving access to Woodbury Common gets green light from conservation champions

Continuing free car parking on Woodbury Common to encourage visitors to the Pebblebed Heaths has won the support of a group dedicated to protecting East Devon conservation sites for future generations.    

The South East Devon Habitat Regulations Executive Committee (SEDHREC) this week backed recommendations for access changes on the Pebblebed Heaths.

The show of support comes after a report was published from a public consultation where Woodbury Common users were asked to give their views on proposals to make the Pebblebed Heaths more accessible to visitors.

The publication of an advisory report commissioned by East Devon Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust (EDPHCT) and SEDHREC was the result of a public consultation held between September and November 2019.

Residents and visitors were asked to share their views on proposed improvements designed to ‘enhance visitor experiences’ and protect wildlife and heritage sites.

The proposals include:

  • 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 anti-social behaviour.

Councillor Susie Bond, chair of SEDHREC and East Devon District Council deputy leader, 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: “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.”

SEDHREC will review costings and decide on priorities for implementing recommendations at its next meeting in April 2020.

The report and SEDHREC’s response to the consultation can be viewed online here 

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