What are Local Geological Sites?
Local Geological Sites (formerly known as Regionally Important Geological Sites – or RIGS) are non-statutory sites that have been identified by local geoconservation groups as being of importance. A potential Local Geological Site is put through an assessment panel and, if a site is duely recommended, is notified to the relevent local authority. By designating a Local Geological Site, the features identified then become a material consideration in any future development.
The concept of RIGS (as was), was first initiated by the Nature Conservancy Council’s (NCC) publication Earth Science Conservation in Great Britain – A Strategy (1990). RIGS sites started life as SSSIs denotified after the Geological Conservation Review (1977-1990). The statutory agencies wished to secure their conservation in another form. Therefore Local Geological Sites are those which, whilst not benefiting from national statutory protection, are nevertheless regionally or locally representative sites where ‘…. consideration of their importance becomes integral to the planning process’ according to the Earth Science Conservation Strategy (ESCS).
How are Local Geological Sites chosen?
A potential site is surveyed and assessed against a national set of qualifying criteria. These are:
- Educational value for fieldwork in primary and secondary schools, at undergraduate level and in adult education courses
- Scientific value for study by both professional and amateur Earth scientists. Such sites demonstrate, alone or as part of a network, the geology or geomorphology of an area.
- Historical significance in terms of important advances in Earth science knowledge.
- Aesthetic qualities in the landscape, particularly in relation to promoting public awareness and appreciation of Earth sciences.
In Herefordshire & Worcestershire, an Assessors Panel meets to consider nominated sites. The Panel, including local geological experts and planners, then decides which of the criteria are met and whether or not the site qualifies for Local Geological Site designation. A site may be important for one or many reasons. It needs only meet one criteria to qualify but usually a site will meet several.
When a site is chosen for designation by the Assessors Panel, detailed records are made of it and the information is then passed on to the local authority planning departments. At the same time the records are also stored on the Trust’s Geological Records Database.
Local Geological Site designation in the two counties began in 1996. Sites can vary in size from a small exposed bank in an old quarry to large sections of the Malvern Hills. Surveyors working for the Trust (often helped by volunteers) scour the countryside searching for potential Local Geological Sites. Currently, there are over 210 Local Geological Sites across the two counties. These sites give important clues and evidence about the geology and landscape of the area.
Some Local Geological Sites are very vulnerable or access to them is private or dangerous. However many more are quite stable and publicly accessible. Lists of designated sites in Herefordshire and in Worcestershire are available online, but if more information is required, please contact the Trust by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone 01905 855184.
Other important geological sites
The two counties also have other sites that have a higher level of protection – Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). These are very important sites that have been chosen for biological, geological and/or geomorphological reasons. Herefordshire & Worcestershire have 36 SSSI’s designated for geology and/or geomorphology. These sites are protected by statutory law and are managed by Natural England. The Trust works closely with the local Natural England team to maintain a watch on these sites.