Posted on Wednesday 4th November 2020
With three million visits a year forecast by 2026, Staffordshire County Council is looking to protect vulnerable plants and wildlife while maintaining open access to Cannock Chase
A £7.8 million conservation plan has the potential to protect Cannock Chase’s wildlife and landscape for years to come.
Creating more car parking spaces away from vulnerable areas will help manage millions of visits each year, while maintaining open access to beautiful Staffordshire countryside.
Plans also include continued free parking in 50 locations across the Chase, investment in improving trails and way signs and providing conservation education in schools and with children’s groups, as well as direct with visitors.
The investment over 15 years is planned by the Cannock Chase Special Area of Conservation Partnership (SAC) and will be funded by money from housing developers.
Now Staffordshire County Council is considering how the proposals might be implemented on the part of Cannock Chase that it is responsible for.
Victoria Wilson, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet member for Communities, said:
By 2026 we expect Cannock Chase to receive 3,000,000 visits a year so we must balance maintaining open access with our legal and moral duty to protect the landscape and wildlife for future generations.
An integral part of the SAC’s conservation proposals is the introduction of a car parking strategy which has the intention of reducing recreational pressure where the landscape and wildlife are most vulnerable and increasing parking capacity in the more robust locations.”
If the proposals are introduced 51 parking locations – two-thirds of them providing four spaces or fewer – will close, but that will be outweighed by the creation of more spaces overall, including 50 locations with free parking.
None of the proposals changes people’s rights of access to Cannock Chase and Blue Badge holders will still park for free at all county council sites, while disabled access will be maintained and improvements made to a disabled access trail.
The authority already charges at three parking sites in the area and is initially considering introducing charges, from 2022 at the earliest, at a maximum of 12 other locations.
No parking will be more expensive than at Chasewater, which currently costs £3 for a day, or less than 10p per day with an annual permit, and any surplus will be reinvested in maintaining the countryside.
Victoria Wilson added:
We are incredibly fortunate to have Cannock Chase on our doorstep and if we want to keep it in the same condition for our children and grandchildren we have to take care of it.
This is part of that process of looking after what we value most.”
The proposals will be discussed at the meeting of the county council’s Prosperous Staffordshire Committee on 12th November.
The Cannock Chase Special Area Conservation Partnership (SAC) is a consortium of local authorities that receives S106 and CIL money from housing developers, plus interested parties such as Staffordshire County Council, Forestry England and Cannock Chase AONB. Staffordshire CC does not administer the S106 and CIL money directly and is therefore a non-voting member of the SAC.
Of the 51 parking areas considered for closure, two-thirds (33) of these are laybys that hold four vehicles or less.
By 2026 it is anticipated that the annual number of visits will have risen to three million per annum.
The 1,300 hectares of Cannock Chase, and the 26 square mile Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that it lies within, contains plants and species of such national and international importance that parts are also listed as both a Special Area of Conservation and a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Cannock Chase has a remarkedly varied landscape, with ancient woodlands, river valleys and wetlands, as well as open heathland. The range of flora and fauna includes herds of fallow deer, four of Britain’s six reptile species, rare and endangered birds including the woodlark and nightjar, and some seldom found plants and insects.