Designated Sites

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West Midlands Geodiversity Partnership


Designated Geological Sites in the West Midlands

A large part of the geodiversity of the west midlands is based in exposures of rock dotted around the 6 counties. These exposures undergo individual detailed scrutiny to determine their individual contribution and potential use for science, general education or leisure purposes. They are then designated by experts in the region and fall within a statutory protection framework as SSSI’s or NNR’s or fall outside this and into local planning frameworks for protection. The highest designations given are for sites of global/international importance for science and the lowest formal designation is regional or RIGS designation. Many other sites are important in the local context and specific local sites guidance is available for these.

Global and European Geoparks

These are large territories recognized internationally as exceptionally important geological terrains, endorsed by UNESCO, they recognise the international importance of an area for its outstanding geology, and the value of geodiversity in achieving sustainable development. As a consequence there is a strong focus on the use of geotourism as a strong tool in promotion and regeneration. The European Geopark network is well established (approximately 25 European geoparks have been established), and new networks of geoparks are being established in Australia, Africa, Asia and North and South America. The Abberley and Malvern Hills became a European Geopark in 2003, and a founder member of the Global Geoparks Network in April 2004. Although due to financial constraints withdrew its membership from the EGN in 2008

The Black Country is about to apply to the EGN for the establishment of a European Geopark for the exceptional geological and mining heritage area that is the Black Country.

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs)

These are Nationally important geological and geomorphological sites, that have formal legal protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1949. They are designanted as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).

There are c1,240 SSSIs in England with a notified geological or geomorphological interest (approximately one-third of the existing SSSI coverage). These sites were selected through the Geological Conservation Review (GCR), a rigorous site-based audit of Great Britain’s geological/geomorphological resource, undertaken between 1977 and 1990.

We have 124 geological SSSIs, covering 164 Geological Conservation Review sites in West Midlands Region.

National Nature Reserves (NNRs)

Again recognized as nationally important and also benefit from statutory protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. Many NNRs have both geological and biological interests, but only 2 are specifically designated for their geology. The Wren’s Nest NNR, designated for its internationally important Silurian limestones and fossil reefs, is the best-known flagship geological NNR in the UK. It celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2006. Hulme Quarry NNR within Park Hall country Park in Staffordshire is designated for its Triassic sandstones and conglomerates. (Note: several biological NNRs in the Region eg Downton Gorge include GCR sites)

SSSI Monitoring and Management

There is a process for monitoring the condition of important statutory sites which has a 6 year periodicity. In the first six-year cycle of assessment, completed in 2003, 83% English geological and geomorphological SSSI met the PSA quality target. (NB geological site condition figures are cited by number rather than area because many are very small). In 2005, despite significant investment under the Facelift programme of Natural England, the figure was still 83%

Regionally Important Geological and Geomorphological Sites (RIGS)

These are non-statutory sites that do not enjoy the legal protections of SSSI’s or NNR’s. There are many sites with features of regional and local interest across the West Midlands. The scheme for identifying and recording RIGS for the whole of the United Kingdom was initiated by the Nature Conservancy Council in 1990. Over the last 16 years, local voluntary geoconservation groups have made audits of geological sites and features within their areas and have selected key sites for protection as RIGs. These are important, regionally or locally, for scientific and research purposes, but they are also selected on the basis of educational value and historical and aesthetic interest. There are currently about 2,400+ RIGS, but this work is ongoing and the total number of sites could reach 4,000 in England.

West Midlands Statistics

The statistics for the West Midlands are given in tables below.

Review of RIGS in the West Midlands Region

The following statistics relate to responses from a questionnaire based research exercise formally undertaken for Natural England in 2007.

Group No of proposed RIGS Formally notified RIGS Sites on database Expected total RIGS Expected total sites
Black Country 50 50   75-100  
Hereford & Worcester 171 148 1600 500 6000
Shropshire 318 307 1410 400 1600
Staffordshire 67 67      
Warwickshire 87 87   200 2000
Total 694 659      

Black Country Geological Society

Currently have 50 designated RIGS sites from a database of some 500 sites identified in the Black Country area

Hereford & Worcester

Have designated 148 RIGS, and has a database of c 1600 sites for evaluation. They expect the number of sites on their database to rise to c 6000 and to select c 500 RIGs.

Note: many of their RIGs overlap with SSSI (there are at least 18 RIGS within the Malvern Hills SSSI). Coverage in Herefordshire is biased towards areas where they have obtained funding for detailed studies, particularly within the Abberley and Malvern Hills Geopark (c36% of their RIGs) and the Herefordshire rivers.

Shropshire Geological Society

Has designated a total of 307 RIGSs within Shropshire, and has a database of c 1400 sites tht have been considered. They expect to designate 400 RIGSs. They have whole county coverage, but with a higher concentration towards the south (Shropshire Hills) where the bedrock is not covered by extensive Superficials. Note: Shropshire was one of the earliest counties to start on a site audit.

Staffordshire RIGS Group

Has designated 67 RIGS. No info on numbers of site records held/expected total. The LGAP sets out a programme for continuing work (check on progress)

Warwickshire Geological Conservation Group

Have designated 87 RIGS

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