The current location of Avon Heath Country Park, next to protected heathland presents an uncomfortable relationship. This is a product of its time, but we now have a much better scientific understanding of the pressures upon the Dorset Heathlands and the species therein. Natural England and Dorset Council are seeking to reduce recreational pressures on the Dorset Heaths through a combination of management measures and providing Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace - See Dorset Heathland Planning Framework SPD 2020-2025 for further information.
The popular Avon Heath Country Park currently attracts visitors towards St Leonards and St Ives Heath and affords direct access to it, so is somewhat at odds with Natural England’s objectives.
The proposed development presents an opportunity to intercept visitors further away from the heath, with a new car park, new visitor centre, café and play spaces. From there a network of walking routes would extend through a natural (restored) landscape providing an attractive alternative to the heathlands.
Following initial engagement with Natural England, W. H. White is pleased to confirm that the proposals have their support.
The proposal might afford an opportunity to dispense with the current lorry park subject to Department of Transport advice. Otherwise this can be retained and integrated within the scheme.
The proposals will also take arable fields out of intensive agricultural use which will significantly help to reduce the level of nitrates emitted from the site and thereby help to improve local water quality, which is again supported by Natural England.
The proposed surf lagoon will operate on an appointment only basis for both users and spectators.
Appointments typically last for one hour and therefore visitors to the proposed surf lagoon would be spread throughout the day and avoiding any large peaks of visitors throughout the day. The proposed surf facility is therefore not expected to have any significantly adverse impact on the local road network and its operation will not make any significant contribution to traffic during peak periods.
The existing surf facility at The Wave, Bristol operates a similar appointment only system which enables visitors to this popular facility to be spread out consistently throughout the day and visitors therefore easily assimilate on the highway network and the facility does not contribute a detrimental level of traffic to the highways network.
Visitors to the proposed improved Avon Heath Country Park are likely, for the most part, to replicate current travel patterns to the existing Avon Heath Country Park.
W. H. White have engaged with Highways England and are awaiting an initial response. W. H. White are aware of the existing difficulties experienced by residents of St Ives and St Leonards turning onto the A31 and this matter will be investigated with the Local Highway Authority and Highways England.
The proposals include a car park with approximately 300 car parking spaces, as well as secure cycle parking spaces. The car park would also provide electric vehicle parking spaces and be operated using the latest ANPR technology.
There is also the opportunity for a temporary, seasonal overflow car park west of Brocks Pine to cater for the very busiest days of the year for the SANG and Avon Heath Country Park.
As explained above the proposed surf lagoon will operate on an appointment only basis for both users and spectators. The level of visitors to the surf facility using the car park at any one time is therefore able to be accurately forecast and managed.
Visitors to the repositioned Avon Heath Country Park are expected to broadly reflect the level of current visitors with some increase to reflect the improved nature of the facilities.
Moreover, the new Avon Heath Country Park facility would be in a more convenient location, with easier pedestrian accessibility from the A31 to enable and encourage local residents in St Ives and St Leonards to visit the site via the existing footbridge across the A31, which is likely to be improved as part of the proposals.
We are aware there are currently pressures in the local area with visitors to Moors Valley Country Park, and Avon Heath Country Park, parking on local residential roads instead of utilising the existing car parks. W. H. White will ensure that this matter is discussed with the Council and will investigate the appropriateness of implementing measures to prevent nuisance parking.
The proposals will include for the provision of photovoltaic panels in order to create onsite renewable energy to contribute towards the operation of the proposed surf lagoon.
The surf lagoon will utilise the latest wave generation technology which will ensure that the level of energy required to operate the facility will not place an onerous demand on the electricity grid and will require a small transformer. The use of on-site renewables, such as solar power, will contribute to the energy required to operate the lagoon.
The primary noise generator from the proposed surf lagoon will be the braking of the waves, which in itself is a subjectively pleasant and low-level sound, and noise generated from those people using the lagoon.
It should be noted that the site’s location means that local residents are unlikely to experience any perceived increase in noise given the background noise of the A31 will be well above the level of noise generated from the proposed surf facility.
The proposed planning application will further investigate the level of noise generated from the proposed development, including that of the impact on the local wildlife and, in order to be considered acceptable in planning terms, will need to meet strict nationally set criteria.
The site is currently within the Green Belt.
Outdoor recreation is a suitable use in this type of green belt location, and the relocation of the Country Park would therefore be considered acceptable.
There is also a clear case for very special circumstances given the compelling economic, environmental and social benefits, that will be experienced as a result of the proposed surf lagoon.
Similar very special circumstances were endorsed for surf lagoon facilities in Bristol and Birmingham. Neither of those existing facilities included the associated benefits to the protected heathland that our proposal will deliver, nor the significantly improved country park facilities.