Posted on Wednesday 20th January 2021
Conservation plans include money for improving trails and signs.
Plans to protect Cannock Chase’s vulnerable landscape and wildlife for future generations have been backed by Staffordshire County Council.
The authority’s Cabinet today agreed to implement its part of a 15-year conservation plan put forward by the Cannock Chase Special Area of Conservation Partnership.
Using £7.8 million of funding from housing developers, money will be spent on a wide range of conservation projects, including improving trails and way signs and providing conservation education in schools and with children’s groups.
It also includes a car parking strategy across all the landowners on the Chase to reduce footfall where the landscape and wildlife are most vulnerable and increase parking capacity in the more robust locations.
Victoria Wilson, Staffordshire Council’s Cabinet member for Communities and Culture, said:
We want people to enjoy Cannock Chase, but in a few years’ time we expect there will be around three million visits every year and most users travel there by car.
Visitors should understand that almost everything that we do there, whether it’s dog walking and rambling, cycling or horse riding, potentially has an adverse effect which we have to manage.
We have a legal and moral duty to protect the Chase, especially the vulnerable wildlife and landscape, and the conservation plan we backed today sets out how we and others will do that for the next generation, while maintaining open access for the growing number of visitors.”
Around a fifth of the conservation investment is to be focused on creating a car strategy across all the landowners.
The report said that many of the current 124 parking locations are sited in the most sensitive areas of the Chase, with users of the paths and tracks leading from them disrupting plants and wildlife on either side of them.
The conservation proposal includes closing up to 51 parking locations in the most sensitive areas, including 33 small areas which have space for four cars at most.
But by the end of the process there will be more parking than now, including around 50 free parking locations with 500 spaces.
Disabled access will be maintained, improvements made to an existing disabled access trail and Blue Badge parking will remain free on our car parks.
Charging will be considered at up to 12 car parks from next year at the earliest. Where charging is introduced, it will be no more expensive than at Chasewater, which currently costs £3 for a day, or less than 10p per day with an annual permit. Any surplus will be reinvested in maintaining Cannock Chase.
Victoria Wilson added:
The over-riding consideration is the need to put plans in place now so our children and grandchildren can continue to enjoy the Chase in future as we enjoy it now.”
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.
Staffordshire County Council is legally responsible for the conservation of Cannock Chase Country Park.
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.