Illegal off-roading in the picturesque Mendip Hills has been tackled through a joint initiative involving Somerset police, conservationists and representatives from Historic England.
The problem was flagged when it was realised that 4×4 vehicles were causing deep ruts and surface erosion to sites classified both as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Scheduled Monument.
Although the damage was only being caused by a small minority of vehicle users, it was leading to archaeological features and natural habitats being damaged, and in some instances destroyed, at the Charterhouse lead works near Blagdon in Somerset.
Representatives from Historic England, Avon and Somerset’s rural liaison teams, Somerset County Council, and the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty worked in partnership to investigate the offences.
A workshop in heritage crime investigation was delivered in February 2015 after all agreed there was a need for joint-agency training.
Physical barriers to limit access to the site were also introduced and efforts made to increase public awareness of the problem.
“It is recognised that the majority of drivers enjoy the historic and natural environment and comply with the laws and regulations relating to the use of motor vehicles in rural locations,” says Mark Harrison, National Policing and Crime Advisor for Historic England.
“This case sends out a clear message that the police and English Heritage are working together to identify the small criminal minority and to bring them to justice.”
Identifying the problem
Illegal off-roading by 4×4 vehicles on the Mendip Hills has caused deep ruts and surface erosion to delicate surfaces forming part of the former lead and silver mining complex, which is protected both as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Scheduled Monument.
In-situ archaeological and natural habitat damaged and destroyed by the criminal behaviour of a small minority of vehicle users.
Legislation changes - Existing
- Ancient Monuments & Archaeological Areas Act 1979
- Police Reform Act 2003
- Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981
English Heritage and officers from Avon and Somerset Police Rural Liaison Teams, Somerset Couny Council, Mendip Hills AONB, worked in partnership to investigate the offences.
The enquiry team recognised a need for joint-agency training in heritage crime investigation and a workshop was delivered in February 2015.
Increased public awareness of the issue and the introduction of some physical barriers to limit vehicular access to the site.
It is recognised that the majority of drivers enjoy the historic and natural environment and comply with the laws and regulations relating to the use of motor vehicles in rural locations.
This case sends out a clear message that the Police and English Heritage are working together to identify the small criminal and to bring them to justice.
The enquiry team recognised a need for joint-agency training in heritage crime investigation. A workshop was delivered in February 2015