Proposals for the Valley of Rocks Picnic Site – Update May 2021

Following the local consultation we did in February we received 13 comments via email and a number of comments via our Facebook post, that included a range of concerns, comments and ideas. Some of these were addressed by clarifying what we were proposing but we have also made a number of changes to the proposals:

Some key issues and ideas that were raised include:

  1. Important to keep the site as natural as possible with minimal manmade infrastructure e.g. payment machines, picnic benches, signage.
  2. One way system cannot be enforced, requires more signage, and may increase the risk of an accident as the upper exit point has poor visibility looking South towards Lynton.
  3. A card only payment machine could discriminate against those without access to bank cards
  4. These proposals will not stop overnight parking/campervans
  5. A vegetation cutting regime that leaves long grass may lead to more rubbish and make the site less accessible
  6. Car park and toilet facilities should be removed altogether, and the site should be returned to a wild state allowing only for disabled parking on site.

In response we have made some changes and can also further clarify some points about the proposals:

  1. Very little signage will need to be added. A small sign will be needed next to each payment machine (there is already one next to the current payment machine) and the current payment machine will be re-sited to be less obtrusive. Only one interpretation panel is proposed, suggested to be sited next to the toilet block away from any view line.
  2. We have removed the proposal for fixed picnic benches and electric vehicle charge points. Electric vehicle charge points may be better suited to nearby formal parking outside of The Valley of Rocks and we will explore this idea with Lynton and Lynmouth Town Council.
  3. Grass banking will be used around some of the parking bays to help hide the tarmac and aggregate surfaces when viewing the site from the main road or the Poets Shelter, and locally matched aggregate will be used for the parking bays with no weed membrane allowing grass to encroach naturally onto the low trafficked edges.
  4. We have removed the proposal for a one-way system and are proposing to slightly widen the main entrance by 0.4m next to the toilet block to allow traffic to pass more easily. The upper entrance/exit next to the cattle grid is not suitable as a main entrance. Any new stones or banking adjacent to the roadway will be set back at least 1m to allow cars to pass each other, without a need to widen the existing tarmac roadway.
  5. Car park payment options. Whilst we recognise there are a small number of individuals who would prefer to pay with cash we have run a cashless system elsewhere without any complaint and the benefits of going cash free are substantial in terms of maintenance costs, staff safety and the visual impact of the machines.
  6. These proposals will not stop overnight camping/campervans but will help us to dissuade an average person from setting up on the grass areas and will also allow better restriction in wet weather when the grass gets rutted and slippery. We are looking into the issue of overnight camping/campervans across our sites as a separate issue.
  7. A new cutting regime is proposed to allow long grass around the perimeter of the site for wildlife benefit and to reduce our carbon footprint from mowing operations. The central picnic area will still be cut regularly. Given the goat grazing here it may make little difference but, in any case, this is a management regime that can be amended should any issues arise.
  8. The idea to completely remove the car parking and toilet block from this site is a radical and interesting one. We don’t believe this would be a popular choice and would restrict access for people who need toilet facilities or cannot walk far. This includes a large percentage of visitors who would not consider themselves to be disabled. However, this idea can be considered by the Authority as part of the planning application.

Following on from this process we have submitted a planning application which will allow further consultation as part of the statutory process.

Anyone wishing to make comments on the proposals had until 28th July to respond

Please accept our thanks for taking time to consider these proposals and to all those who care about this special place.