Geological conservation and County Geology Sites

Rocky Valley County Geology Site, Pat Sargeant

Cornwall has some of the richest and most varied geology in the British Isles. This, combined with its long coastline and complex mining history, means that the county contains a large number of sites worthy of conservation.

How are sites protected?

As with wildlife sites, geological and geomorphological sites can be subject to a variety of natural and man made threats. Sites are always vulnerable to erosion and vegetation overgrowth, however land reclamation schemes, coastal defences and green or brown field developments can devastate or even completely obliterate important exposures.

Coastal defences covering important geology at South-west Constantine Bay

The Cornwall Geoconservation Group raises awareness of appropriate sites by designating them as County Geology Sites, previously referred to as RIGS. Currently, the Group has approved 115 sites. Sites are continually reviewed and updated and new sites added to the list when appropriate.

How are County Geology Sites chosen?

The designation of a locality or landscape feature as a County Geology Site is a way of recognising and protecting a regionally important Earth heritage site.

A site can be selected, on the basis of one or more of the following clearly defined and locally determined criteria:
• scientific importance
• educational value
• historical significance
• aesthetic value for public awareness and appreciation.

For more information, download the document 'County Geology Site Criteria for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly' (published in 2010), at the bottom of this page.

A site can be proposed by anyone. Just contact the Cornwall Geoconservation Group with evidence of its geological and / or geomorphological significance. The landowner is always consulted before a site is designated.

Are these sites protected by law?

It is important to note that unlike Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), County Geology Sites are not protected by law. They are however notified to local authorities and are an established feature of the statutory planning process in Cornwall.

Within Cornwall, designated sites are protected by conservation policies in the County Structure Plan, the Cornwall Minerals Framework, the Cornwall Waste Framework and the Local Development Framework. A County Geology Site designation does not commit landowners to any increased site access or management. However the Geoconservation Group welcomes the opportunity to work with landowners on the monitoring and maintenance of sites.

If you are a landowner with an existing or potential County Geology Site on or near your land and wish to find out more, please download a copy of our Cornwall County Geology Sites leaflet at the bottom of this page, or contact Sue Hocking, Cornwall Geoconservation Group Secretary.


FilenameFile size
County Geology Sites leaflet_2016.pdf1.27 MB
County Geology Site Criteria for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly_2010.pdf2.67 MB