New signs on Salisbury Plain aim to protect precious environment

DIO, Natural England and Treadlightly have worked together to install a series of signs at Great Cheverell Hill, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), on Salisbury Plain.

The signs have been erected because the site has been subjected to repeated illegal access by off-road vehicles, which is having a devastating impact on the sensitive environment. 

Sarah Grinsted, Lead Advisor from Natural England said:

“Great Cheverell Hill SSSI has exceptional flora and butterfly life found on its steep slopes and thin soils.  The increasingly regular trawl of 4x4s and motorbikes is damaging the habitat and is a serious concern.” 

As a means of managing this illegal behaviour, the decision was made to put up the signs to raise awareness of the site’s designation as a SSSI and to make it clear that vehicle access is illegal and a fineable offence. 

Members from not-for-profit organisation Treadlightly and the Greenlaning Association were on hand to install the signs, continuing their work to promote responsible and ethical recreational vehicular access to the countryside. 

Dale Wyatt, Treadlightly Ambassador said:

“When driving in the countryside the rules of the road apply.  The only unsurfaced roads you can legally use are BOATs (Byway Open to All Traffic) and UCRs (Unclassified County Roads).  It’s as simple as that.

“Unless you have permission from the landowner, ‘off-roading’ is breaking the law and damaging a SSSI comes with a hefty fine.” 

High priority is placed on the planned and sympathetic management of Salisbury Plain Training Area, this includes protecting its SSSI.  Illegal incursions of all types degrade protected sites, are detrimental to military training activities and are dangerous.  

Lt. Col. Stewart Andrews, Senior Training Safety Officer at Salisbury Plain said:

“DIO’s role is to maximise the potential of the Defence estate to support the Armed Forces.  We also have a legal and moral responsibility to ensure that the military training estate is protected.

“This initiative is a shining example of all agencies working together for a common cause.  It is hoped that by raising awareness on site, and through local press and social media, that illegal off-roaders will think twice about destroying such a precious and sensitive environment.” 

Visitors to the area who witness illegal off-road activity are asked to contact the police on 101 before contacting the Plain Watch number on 01980 674700. 

Ends

Notes to editors

1. The Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) plays a vital role in supporting our Armed Forces by building, maintaining and servicing what the men and women who serve our country need to live, work, train and deploy on operations.

2. DIO is part of the Ministry of Defence (MOD).  It is responsible for managing and maintaining land and properties, as well as providing related support services, to meet the current and future needs of the MOD and personnel at home and abroad, and to support current operations.

3. Great Cheverell Hill SSSI is 34 hectares in size, and is designated for the presence of species-rich chalk grassland which supports a range of rare plants, many of which are indicative of long periods of uninterrupted management without ploughing, fertilisers or herbicides.  Rare plants include bastard-toadflax, burnt-tip orchid and early gentian.  Nationally scarce butterflies Adonis blue, Duke of Burgundy and marsh fritillary are also present.  Much of the site is on steep slopes which can support only thin soils which are sensitive to erosion from activity such as off-roading.

 4. With picture. Caption: Representatives from the Greenlaning Association, Wiltshire Council, Wiltshire Bridleways and local volunteers with one of the newly-installed signs. Crown copyright MOD/2015.

Further information: Contact Kirsty Williams, External Communications Officer, Defence Infrastructure Organisation, 01985 222862, kirsty.williams600@mod.uk


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