County Gate is a high remote centre located between Porlock and Lynmouth and is ideally situated as a starting point for people walking the coast path. There is a lot of display information about the Park’s characteristics, and staff provide guidance on walks to follow. There is a large car park with allocated spaces for orange badge holders. It is suitable for coaches and therefore for study groups. This is an award winning centre in a interesting historic building acquired by the ENPA and opened as a centre in 1980. According to one interviewee, it is mainly walkers who use this centre.
Dunster Centre is located 50 metres from a public car park and is open from April to October and then for the Dunster Candlelight event for the first weekend in December, Christmas week, half term in February and weekends in March. There are many walks from this location and also cycle trails and there are picnic sites which are good for family exploring. This centre was refurbished in 2000 with support from the Crown Estate and the National Trust. It exhibits an interesting display about the woollen trade in Dunster during medieval times along with additional displays about modern life on Exmoor and recreational opportunities available. Here is also a short guided walk to follow around the village. There is a rare pottery kiln behind the site.
Combe Martin Visitor Centre has a public car park adjacent to it. It is the starting point for guided walks and various events are also held there. A range of activities may be booked from the centre including boat trips, walks and theatre visits. There are also interactive displays, a topographical map and plenty of literature.
The National Park Centre at Dulverton is part of a large partnership complex housing exhibitions about the heritage of Dulverton, the importance of the surrounding woodlands, and an art gallery and library. It is located in the main square in the town, adjacent to a large public car park (pay & display) and a variety of shops and services. There are hands-on informative displays that have a woodland theme that link the Centre with the heritage centre that houses displays and artefacts about the heritage of Dulverton. There are regularly exhibitions on view by local artists. The centre is easily accessible and staff are trained to assist people with special needs. Local walks link with buses to Brushford, Brompton Regis and Winsford.
Blackmoor Gate is a two year pilot visitor centre that used to be located on the coast front at Lynmouth but had to move from there because of deterioration in the building (which was owned by the North Devon District Council). It is now located at a far more remote place at the western gateway to the National Park, between the rivers Yeo and Heddon and at a major road junction. The ENPA held a competition for the design of the centre. This centre is staffed by two people with one additional casual member of staff, but there is usually one person on duty at a time. Interestingly, this centre is much appreciated by the less mobile who could not access the Lynmouth centre easily. Also at Lynmouth parking was a problem so the way this centre runs is somewhat different in its new location. There is more one-to-one discussion with visitors as it tends to be less busy. More wheelchair users use this centre than they would have at Lynmouth as there is good parking, and the centre itself is easy to access with a ramp. Most visitors are walkers or cyclists (with being on a crossroads). There are no other centres in close proximity. Blackmoor Gate Centre currently is housed in a ‘superior modular building’ – it is not in permanent accommodation.
5) Sustainability of Blackmoor Gate Centre
This is a trial at present in the new temporary accommodation, and this is the second year it has been open for. The numbers of visitors were said by a member of staff there to have been disappointing last year, however, this year they have already more than doubled (in May) and this is likely to be to do with better signage.
This case study was chosen because the area includes the development of green infrastructure, regeneration, a community forest and several country parks with visitor centres, one of which is relatively new and revenue-generating, and the other older and local authority-funded. Similar elements are present in the Thames Gateway South Essex Greengrid.
1) Characteristics of the area
The Forest of Marston Vale is one of twelve Community Forests in England and covers 61 square miles between Bedford and Milton Keynes. The Forest was established in 1991 to repair the damaged land of the Marston Vale. The area was characterised by vast mineral sites where clay was extracted for brick manufacture over the last 100 years. The clay pits have either filled with water or become major landfill sites. As the brick making industry declined the Forest of Marston Vale was established to regenerate the environment by creating a well-wooded landscape.
Marston Vale has long been identified as a strategic growth corridor, but pressure on the Vale has increased with the Milton Keynes & South Midlands Strategy. The Sustainable Communities Plan includes 19,000 new homes and associated businesses in Bedford, Kempston and the Northern Marston Vale by 2021. Milton Keynes Borough Council's population estimate for June 2005 was 218,660 people. If the current Structure Plan allocation of dwellings growth in Milton Keynes to 2011 is reached, the population will have risen to 247,480 people living in the Borough. That's an average of almost twelve extra people every day between 2004 and 2011.
Key social drivers in the area and any new developments in housing/accessibility/infrastructure generally
The aim is for environmental regeneration to deliver high quality multi-functional green space that meets the needs of existing local communities and caters for the planned future expansion, to provide a rich patchwork of habitats for people and wildlife, incorporating 30% woodland cover. To achieve 30% of woodland cover given existing water bodies, housing, industry and hard infrastructure means that 39% of the remaining land must become available for woodland creation.