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 on site, continuing their ongoing work to further 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.