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Proposals to protect Cannock Chase

 

The proposals explained

Background

The Cannock Chase Special Area of Conservation Partnership (SAC) is made up of local authorities that receive money from housing developers to offset the impact of their developments. The SAC’s role is to use that money to protect Cannock Chase’s habitats and wildlife. Membership1 also includes interested parties such as Staffordshire County Council, Forestry England and Cannock Chase AONB. Staffordshire County Council does not receive money directly from housing developers and is therefore a non-voting member of the SAC.

Heathland on Cannock Chase

Members of the SAC agreed to introduce a unified car parking policy across all the Chase with the intention of reducing provision in the more sensitive areas and increasing capacity in more robust locations.

It also agreed a 15-year programme to improve way marking and trails, provide more interpretation panels in certain locations and carry out education work with local schools and children’s groups, as well as face to face engagement with visitors to raise awareness of the importance of the Chase.

All this will be funded by money from housing developers. It does not come from council budgets.

The SAC reached its decision after running a consultation in the autumn of 2019 which was promoted in mainstream media, social media, at visitor centres and by six local authorities. The consultation website was visited by more than 6,000 individual IP accounts and there were 408 responses representing 130 individuals2.

Next steps

Staffordshire County Council has a legal and moral duty to protect the landscape and wildlife of Cannock Chase, balancing that protection with continued free access for millions of visitors each year.

Following careful consideration, the county council agreed to support the proposals at its Cabinet meeting in January. Council staff are now working with the SAC Partnership to plan how the work will be implemented over the coming years. This will include further consultation on key projects, such as master planning for Marquis Drive and the Chase Road options appraisal, plus engagement on the detail of works at other locations where required.

Regarding the parking proposals, none changes people’s rights of access to Cannock Chase. Disabled access will be provided for and Blue Badge holders will still park for free at all county council sites.

There will be significant work to the TocH trail and there will be disabled parking and access to it.

Some small parking areas - many of them laybys - will close, there will be more parking spaces overall and 50 locations will still have free parking.

Two people walking over Cannock Chase

Initially the county council will consider charges at a maximum of 12 of its parking areas.  Another five parking areas will be part of a separate public consultation at a future date regarding use of the Chase Road bridleway.

If charging is introduced no parking will be more expensive than at Chasewater, which currently costs visitors £3 for a day, or less than 10p per day if you buy an annual permit for £36.

If these proposals are introduced it will be a phased process beginning in 2022 at the earliest. Closure and introduction of charges at other car parks will only happen after work has been carried out to stop displacement parking on verges to avoid risk to public safety and wildlife.

Any surplus will be reinvested in maintaining the countryside.

Facts and figures

  1. The anticipated cost of the SAC’s programme spread over 15 years is approximately £7.8 million.
  2. It is funded by money from housing developers.
  3. Spread over 15 years, it is anticipated 20 per cent will be spent on improving and managing car parks in sustainable parts of the Chase.
  4. Spread over 15 years, it is anticipated 80 per cent will be spent on the improvement of way marking and trails, provide more interpretation panels in certain locations and carry out education work with local schools and children’s groups, as well as face to face engagement with visitors to raise awareness of the importance of the Chase.
  5. The number of visitors to Cannock Chase is expected to increase to three million a year by 2026 from the current 2.5 million.
  6. Parking closures are proposed by the SAC at 51 locations. Two-thirds (33) of these are laybys that hold four vehicles or fewer.
  7. The proposed closures equal 12 per cent of the parking spaces on the Chase.
  8. By expanding provision in suitable locations there will be a greater number of parking spaces.
  9. 50 out of the remaining 73 locations will be free to use.
  10. The current cost of parking at one of five Staffordshire County Council car parks on Cannock Chase, or at Chasewater, is no more than £3 per day and is less than 10p per day with an annual pass.

Watch Victoria Wilson, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet member for Communities and Culture, talk about the proposals:

Myth buster

As the population grows, we expect 3,000,000 visits a year to Cannock Chase – and those visits can cause unintended harm to wildlife and landscape. So, over the next 15 years, action is being taken to protect the Chase and its wildlife from harm.

Myth: The Green (Triangle) at Marquis Drive will be covered in Tarmac

Reality: It will remain a picnic area for people to enjoy

Myth: Visitors will be herded into a few massive car parks

Reality: There will be more than 70 different parking areas from small to large

Myth: People with disabilities won’t have access

Reality: Improvements will make it more accessible, not less

Myth: People with disabilities will have to pay to park

Reality: SCC parking areas will remain free for Blue Badge holders

Myth: Parking fees will be spent elsewhere

Reality: Parking fees are ring-fenced. Money will be spent on the car parks, site and service

Myth: There will be no free parking left

Reality: There will still be 500 free parking spaces across the area

Myth: The plans are about making money

Reality: We’re managing footfall to protect the Chase and reinvesting parking charges

Myth: The plans don’t address managing the habitats

Reality: The plans protect habitats as one strand in a wider approach

 


 

Footnotes

(1) Membership of the SAC includes: Cannock Chase District Council; East Staffordshire Borough Council; Lichfield District Council; South Staffordshire District Council; Stafford Borough Council; Wolverhampton City Council; and input from Walsall Borough Council, Natural England; Cannock Chase AONB Partnership; Forestry England; the National Trust, RSPB, Staffordshire Wildlife Trust; and Staffordshire County Council.

(2) A public consultation led by the SAC Partnership was live from 21 October - 29 November 2019. Prior to the start of the consultation, a Q&A workshop was held at Cannock Chase Forest Centre on 26 September where the documents were presented. The consultation was promoted by the six local councils (Stafford BC, Cannock Chase DC, Lichfield DC, South Staffordshire Council, East Staffordshire DC, Walsall BC) in the Partnership through their updates and social media. A press release was sent out to local media and a briefing note was created for council members. The consultation featured in The Express and Star newspaper on 24 October and other online media asking people to participate. E-mail circulars advertising the consultation were also sent to Parish councils and local interest groups who also advertised it on social media. Flyers and posters were put up at Cannock Chase visitor centres. The consultation also featured on popular public groups and pages for Cannock Chase on Facebook. 8169 visits were made to the consultation website. 6066 were unique views – meaning 6066 individual IP accounts visited the website. 408 responses were submitted which represented 130 individuals. The majority (88%) of respondents were individual site users. Most respondents were based local to Cannock Chase; Cannock, Hednesford, Rugeley, Milford, Stafford.

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