A quartet of Pebblebed Heaths car parks in East Devon – likened to ‘bomb sites’ – can be improved after plans were given the green light.
Sites at Joney’s Cross, at Hawkerland, Four Firs, at Woodbury, and roadside areas at Stowford, at Colaton Raleigh, and Frying Pans, at Bicton Common, can now be resurfaced and undergo drainage works.
Improved signage and information boards are also in the offing.
It is hoped the bid will improve safety and reduce parking pressures elsewhere around the beauty spot.
The heath is a 1,400sq hectare Site of Special Scientific Interest and a special area of conservation for southern damselflies, nightjars and Dartford warblers.
East Devon District Council’s Planning Committee approved the proposals, writes Local Democracy Reporter Joe Ives.
Woodbury and Lympstone representative Councillor Geoff Jung told the meeting: “I think everyone would agree that the car parks on the common look little better than a bomb site; muddy puddles, ruts and no logic on where to park.”
Cllr Jung added that there had been some misinformation on social media on the purpose of the improvements.
He said they would improve safety and movement around the car parks, increase visibility from the road and ‘reduce the opportunity for theft and antisocial behaviour which is fairly common on the heath’.
The council says there has been increased use of the Pebblebed Heath because of new housing developments in East Devon.
An officer’s report to members said: “Increasing the capacity at the larger car parks means there would be an increased focus on these areas with less harm likely to arise in other satellite parking areas, thereby reducing the harm to the wider Pebblebed Heaths.”
A footpath to the car park at Joney’s Cross will be kept open, the meeting heard.
Kim Stawbridge, reserves manager at the Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust, said after the decision: “We are thrilled to get the go-ahead to start this crucial work.
“Our team have been looking forward to delivering these improvements since the design work started in 2019.
“The Pebblebed Heaths are such an iconic part of the East Devon landscape, incredibly important for both wildlife and local people.
“Most people arrive by car, so having entrance points to the nature reserve that are welcoming and do this unique place justice will make it clear to people that they have arrived somewhere special.
“We are particularly excited about the new information boards which are being designed to include clear maps to help people explore the heaths and the diverse heritage of the area.”