Steetley Woods Downhill - Natural England Statement

bobp556 Posts: 8
edited May 2009 in MTB rides
I hope the following comes out OK. This is basically a copy of a leaflet setting out the conservation issues at Steetley Woods.

We do not set out to spoil people's fun and we try to balance the needs of the environment and wildlife against the use and enjoyment of the countryside by the public. However digging up a SSSI to construct trails and jumps, creating pits and large areas of compacted soil and holding competitions that leave large amounts of litter is absolutely unacceptable and against the law. I am sure that no rider seeks to destroy the countryside that you all enjoy and Natural England are not out to spoil anyone's enjoyment of downhill riding but this site now needs to be restored and the habitat protected.

Please could the organisers of this event contact me to discuss this ASAP. (Dont use a personal message, I'm too old to understand how they work)

The information below will answer some of the questions you may have :

What is a Site of Special Scientific Interest?

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) represent the very best of the rich variety of wildlife and geology that makes England’s nature special and distinct from any other country in the world. There are over 4,100 SSSIs in England covering over one million hectares, which is about 7% of England’s land area.

What is the law protecting SSSIs?

SSSIs are protected by law under Section 28 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 (as amended by Schedule 9 to the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 and Section 55 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006) in order to conserve and protect these unique areas for the benefit of present and future generations and are a vital part of our natural heritage.

Why are they important?

Nearcliffe Woods, also known as Steetley Woods, are within Sprotbrough Gorge SSSI.
The woodland areas within Sprotbrough Gorge SSSI, which includes Nearcliffe Woods, are important for their calcareous ash-wych elm woodland (southern variant). Collectively the woodland areas on the slopes of the Gorge are among the top three best examples of this type of woodland in the country. Sprotbrough Gorge was declared a SSSI in 1988 to protect the wide diversity of trees, shrubs and wildflowers typical in this type of woodland.

What harm can bikes and vehicles have on this SSSI?

Natural England recognises that there are responsible bikers who are using lawful routes and not damaging SSSIs nor causing concern or disruption to anyone. However, recent construction of bike routes and jumps in this SSSI is causing serious damage to the woodland trees, to the woodland shrub layer, the ground flora and the soil structure. Bird species are possibly being disturbed and large amounts of litter are accumulating.

Is bike & vehicular use allowed on a SSSI?

Generally recreational & vehicular use on a SSSI will be classed as an operation likely to damage. This means that creating bike routes and jumps and using vehicles on a SSSI can only legally be undertaken with Natural England’s permission unless people are using a lawful route.

What is a lawful route?

A lawful route, such as a byway open to all traffic, is one which has been classified by a local authority for use by the public for activities such as walking, horse riding and motor vehicle use. Check with the local authority as to the status of the route.

What happens about activities on a SSSI without permission or on a lawful route?

Unlawful biking, recreational or vehicle activity on this SSSI is a criminal offence which can result in a fine in the Magistrates Court of a fine up to £20,000 or to an unlimited fine in the Crown Court.

It is also a criminal offence under section 34 of the Road Traffic Act 1984 (as amended) if a motor vehicle is upon any land other than a road including a footpath, bridleway or restricted byway. This offence will be dealt with by the police by issuing a fixed penalty notice or a prosecution in the Magistrates Court up to £1000.

Equipment & vehicles may also be seized.