Pebblebed Heaths car parking “improvements”

Some of you may have noticed a group of planning applications validated for week beginning 21 June for a number of car parks on the Pebblebed Heaths.

They are grouped under this group application. and cover Stowford Woods, Frying Pan, Four Firs and Joneys Cross.

It is a response to the increased “footfall” pressures caused by “build, build, build”. Note the phrases “gathering” and “flexible visitor management” – Owl

Extracts from Pebblebed Heaths Car park strategy 2019 

The primary objective of this car parking strategy is to safeguard the SPA protected bird species (Nightjar and Dartford Warbler) and SAC heathland habitats from the adverse impacts and disturbance caused by people, particularly from dogs that are not on a lead. The principles applied to the car parking strategy seek to achieve this through: –

  • ‘gathering’ visitors towards car parks that are away from sensitive locations and towards those that have less impact on protected habitats and species.
  • retaining and developing the formal car parks that are as close as possible to the points of entry on to the Heaths, adjacent to the principal roads where the car parks are easy to find and easy to sign (e.g. car park name signs) thereby reducing car movements across the heaths and the scattered informal parking that occurs consequentially. 
  • maintaining the current number of car parking spaces across the heaths.  establishing nodes as the starting point for promoted trails, to direct people away from sensitive areas at key times of the year and to create welcoming, attractive locations where visitors can engage with interpretation, messaging and wardens about the nature, value and significance of the Pebblebed Heaths and particularly about responsible dog walking. 
  • the development of cost-effective design and build standards that are appropriate to a countryside location within an AONB and maintenance of surrounding vegetation that gives confidence to car park users that they and their vehicles are secure when using the car parks.
  • the partial, phased or seasonal closure of several car parks to enable a flexible approach to visitor management. 

…..Whilst this report does not recommend charging for parking to manage visitor numbers, as payment for parking at formal car parks is likely to displace visitors across the SPA/SAC undoing the principle of gathering visitors at nodes, the report does discuss charging options being adopted by other countryside managers.