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Cannock Chase Country Park - Events Management Protocol - SAC


Cannock Chase Country Park is the largest surviving area of open heathland in the West Midlands and home to fragile plants and animals of very high nature conservation importance. Much of the Park is designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), it also has a rich cultural heritage with numerous archaeological remains which need careful management. The Country Park is an important visitor destination for outdoor recreation but as the landowner, the County Council has obligations to ensure the site and its special features are protected for future generations. 

Event organisers are required to inform and obtain the County Council’s permission for all types of events planned to be held on Cannock Chase Country Park. Event organisers are solely responsible for ensuring that their event is planned and run safely, with the necessary permission(s) obtained, to police the behaviour of the participants and spectators as far as practicable and to reinstate the site to the satisfaction of the County Council. 

From 1st April 2017, the County Council has introduced a new approach to permitting and managing all types of foot orienteering events on the Country Park including training events and all formal recreational events on the SAC with more than 50 participants. The events which are managed and permitted through this new approach are defined as “any organised walking, running, cycling, horse riding or foot orienteering activity with more than 50 participants planned on the Special Area of Conservation or any foot orienteering event including training events planned on the Country Park on a defined date." 

This Recreational Events Protocol has been prepared for organisers of these types of events to follow. 

All other types of events on the Country Park that are outside the SAC and not subject to this Protocol will continue to be managed and permitted through an existing online application form system which has also been reviewed.   

The reason for the change in approach is to address the increasing demand and recreational pressure on the SAC, to ensure that the needs and enjoyment of all site users are met and to manage the natural and cultural heritage interests of the site.  

Changes from 1 April 2017 

From 1 April 2017, the County Council has adopted a more adaptive and regulated management approach particularly on the more sensitive areas of the Country Park, whereby limits will be set and adjusted based on monitoring findings. In future, the framework for permitting events will be regularly reviewed in the light of these findings. 

Event organisers are now required to complete and gain consent to an Event Management Plan to hold: 

  • any organised walking, running cycling or horse riding event on the SAC with more than 50 participants and 
  • any foot orienteering event including training events on the Country Park whether on or outside of the SAC.   

The “event organiser” is defined as the “individual” or “organisation” responsible for the event whether for its planning or for its management and supervision.  Event organisers must demonstrate in the Event Management Plan how they intend to run and manage their event in a way that is sensitive to the special features on the Chase and to other site users.

Other events outside of the SAC will be managed through a more simplified online application system which has also been revised to afford more protection to the natural and cultural heritage interests of the site. 

In considering applications for permission to hold an event, the County Council reserves the right: 

  • to refuse consent for any events and events involving motorbikes, orienteering on mountain bikes or night time sporting events are not permitted on the Country Park. 
  • to cancel any event in the case of an emergency, in which case the fee will be returned, or to cancel any event where the fee has not been paid at least 7 days’ in advance of the event being held. In the event of cancellation of any booking for any reason by the event organiser, the County Council will not ordinarily return the fee. 
  • to place restrictions on any future event(s) organised by an event organiser where there is any serious or persistent breach or breaches of this Protocol or their agreed Event Management Plan.   

At its discretion, the County Council may also charge for staff time for monitoring, policing or clearing up after an event. 

For Running, Walking and Cycling Events 

1.There is one defined 5km route shown on Map A and one defined 10km route shown on Map B for running, cycling and walking events and event organisers are expected, and encouraged through the County Council’s website, to utilise these routes. 

2. The 5km route lies outside of the SAC and is located in the area of the Visitor Centre at Marquis Drive, Hednesford. Events on this route will be managed via the online application form system. Restrictions may be imposed on the number of events and participants using these routes at certain times of the year to protect habitats and according to available staffing resources. 

3. The 10 km route lies within the SAC and links to Forestry Commission land and events on this route are managed via the Event Management Plan system. Map B indicates potential areas for parking, viewing, etc. and event organisers are expected to indicate in their Event Management Plan how they propose to utilise these areas. 

4. Events on the 10 km route are required to have staggered starts to reduce impacts on tracks and adjacent land. 

For Horse Riding Events

5. Horse riding events are restricted to the defined horse routes shown on Map C which predominantly utilise the public bridleway network. 

For Foot Orienteering Events

6. Subject to the restrictions in 9, 10 and 11 below, access for orienteering is permitted as follows, with reference to Map D

From 1st September to 28th February (outside bird breeding season)

From 1st March to 31st August (bird breeding season) 

For Orienteering Training Events

7. In addition to the foot orienteering events outlined in 6 above, orienteering training events are permitted in the areas shown on Map D subject to the restrictions below. For the purposes of this Protocol an “orienteering training event” is defined as an event for newcomers to the sport or those wishing to improve their basic skills of orienteering or fitness level within a non-competitive environment. 

  • Training event (March – August inclusive) – up to 30 participants – up to 8 events per annum
  • Training event (September – February inclusive) – up to 30 participants – up to 5 events per annum
  • Guest training event (September – February inclusive) – up to 50 participants – up to 2 events per annum

8. Information on Map D needs to be interpreted clearly for participants in all orienteering events with a clear system indicating areas that can be used, areas that are track access only and areas which cannot be used.

Event and Participant Maximums

9. No more than 14 events, excluding foot orienteering training events, will be permitted on the SAC per year and will include: 

  1. Up to 2 cycling events
  2. Up to 2 running events
  3. Up to 2 walking events
  4. Up to 3 foot orienteering events
  5. Up to 2 endurance horse riding events
  6. Up to 2 small horse events
  7. Up to 1 additional event of any category 

10.  The maximum numbers of participants permitted for each event on the 10 km route will be: 

  1. Cycling events – up to 300 participants
  2. Running events – up to 500 participants
  3. Walking events – up to 1000 participants
  4. Foot orienteering events – up to 300 participants (exceptionally there may be up to 1000 participants for an event held jointly with Forestry Commission no more than once each 2 years)
  5. Horse riding endurance events – up to 150 participants
  6. Small horse riding events – up to 60 participants

11. No more than two events will be permitted in any month to reduce impacts on other site users and on site infrastructure. 

Events Management Plan

12. For any event on the SAC, event organisers will be required to complete and obtain consent to an Event Management Plan based on a template provided, making sure that they run and manage their event in a way that is sensitive to the special features on the Chase and to other site users. The Event Management Plan will need to include information about parking areas, drinking stations, viewing areas, biosecurity, etc.

Scheduling of Events

13. For 2017 bookings will be based on planned events and/or taken on an ad hoc basis. From 1 April 2018 there will be one main application window each year with any remaining slots allocated on an ad hoc basis up to the agreed maximum.  This will assist with the scheduling of events and pre-planning and ensures fair and equitable access to the site. Information about the main application window will be communicated to existing organisers and made available on the County Council’s website in advance. 

Monitoring Regime

14. Unless an event is small, both pre- and post-monitoring will be carried out in order to manage an event’s impacts on the site and other users. The monitoring measures which will be carried out before, during and in the aftermath of the event will be identified through the Event Management Plan process.  These measures will include identifying suitable areas for parking, spectators, drink areas etc which can be agreed in advance to ensure that any potential impacts are minimised. Responsibility for the monitoring will be clearly defined between the event organiser and county council staff. Event organisers should be able to take responsibility for implementing measures that are administrative, such as signage and adhering to marked routes/restricted zones, but will not be responsible for measures that require ecological knowledge to make decisions and form judgements. The cost of any monitoring carried out by county council staff and may be recovered from the event organiser. 

15. The above measures will form the basis of an adaptive management approach. It is very difficult to determine the ‘carrying capacity’ of sites like Cannock Chase, which have a variety of features and a wide range of recreational uses, management activities etc. 

16. The monitoring programme will include both event and habitat monitoring and cover a range of monitoring types with additional considerations for orienteering events because of their potentially higher impacts on the SAC. Monitoring will take place no more than two days after each event to ensure that the data collected can be directly related to the event. Measures for monitoring events will include: 


  • Checking the completed Event Management Plan and discussing any issues with event organisers, to secure a clear and agreed list of measures which could result in the event being cancelled if not fully implemented. 
  • Meeting with the event organisers at least once and then as necessary to raise awareness of the SAC and the need for its protection, introduce the Recreational Events Protocol and the template Event Management Plan(large events/start of orienteering season, for example). This will be a one-off event for all current event organisers, and then continued on a smaller scale as new event organisers come forward. In relation to orienteering, this will be a face-to-face meeting to effectively plan for this more complex and potentially higher risk activity. 

Pre-event checks of measures such as fencing/cordoning-off, information boards and effective signage, litter bins and vehicle movements during set-up.


  • Event monitoring of people including the indirect effects of the event in terms of its impact on the behaviour of other Cannock Chase visitors 
  • Event monitoring of parking including the displacement of other visitors  
  • Event monitoring of the behaviour of participants in events 
  • Event monitoring the behaviour of spectators and the indirect behavioural changes in other Cannock Chase uses in response to the event taking place 
  • Observations on the effective implementation of agreed measures such as staggered starts, crowd control and biosecurity 
  • Weather observation 
  • Spot checks of higher risk points such as bottlenecks, vehicle turning points


  • Observations on post event clearance, including measures relating to vehicle use to clear the site and litter. 

Monitoring of Habitats 

  • Post event and annual monitoring of tracks and paths used by event 
  • Post event and annual monitoring of habitat condition and change. 

17. Once an event season has ended using this new approach, the county council will undertake an end of season review. The review will be undertaken, and adaptations agreed ready for implementation before any bookings are taken for events in the next year. A record of adaptations and their justifications will be kept to inform future reviews. Adaptations may include changes to participant maximums, route alterations, removal or reduction in frequency of a particular event type and improved mechanisms for managing car parking etc. 

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