A beauty spot with panoramic views of the Shropshire countryside is to be designated a Local Nature Reserve.
The new status for the Cliffe near Ruyton-XI-Towns will recognise its value as an globally rare heathland habitat and treasured area of public open space.
A report to be considered by Shropshire Council’s cabinet next week says the designation for the 22-hectare site will bring benefits including the potential to attract more visitors, bid for external funding and offer an extra layer of protection from development.
The council has legal powers to dedicate new local nature reserves (LNRs), as long as the area being proposed meets certain requirements and is in the authority’s ownership.
As the Cliffe is owned by Ruyton-XI-Towns Parish Council, cabinet is being asked to delegate authority to designate the LNR.
A report by Clare Featherstone, culture, leisure and tourism manager, says: “The Cliffe lies adjacent to Nesscliffe Hill Country Park and forms a continuous area of publicly accessible green space extending from Nesscliffe to Ruyton-XI-Towns.
“In 2019 Ruyton-XI-Towns Parish Council purchased the majority of this area of common land from the Bradford Estate. It is managed by Shropshire Council under a formal agreement.
“The Parish Council have given their support for the designation of their land as a Local Nature Reserve.
“The Cliffe provides a mostly open heathland landscape, one of the rarest type of habitat globally.
“There are panoramic views over the North Shropshire Plain and towards the distant hills of South Shropshire and Wales.
“Environmental designation raises the profile with the public and can increase visitor usage and the health and wellbeing benefits this provides.
“LNR designations also provides some protection for the site’s nature conservation and recreation interest.”
Nesscliffe Country Park was one of four Shropshire Council-owned sites confirmed as LNRs by cabinet in September 2020. The council said at the time the Cliffe would be brought forward separately for LNR designation once plans had been finalised with the parish council.
Ms Featherstone’s report says: “The Cliffe is an important recreational site for many people from the local area and from further afield within the county due to the site being readily accessible just off the A5.
“The site has seen a steady increase in visitor numbers in recent years particularly with regards mountain bikers, horse riders and pedestrians. The site is also popular with orienteers.
“The size of the site and its position adjacent to Nesscliffe Hill Country Park allows visitors to enjoy spending long periods of time exploring the area without having to walk along or cross any busy roads, a feature that has been noted to be of particular importance to horse riders.
“Several benches are provided. It is known that several local schools and the Field Studies Council make use of the site for environmental education work.
“There appears to be little available information regarding historical management of the Cliffe, although as common land it is likely to have been grazed. The northern part was affected by a fire in 1984.”
If cabinet approves the delegation, the parish council will be responsible for undertaking the necessary formalities to give effect to the dedication.