Proposals to protect Cannock Chase frequently asked questions
Detailed information about the proposals and the consultation process can be found by visiting the Cannock Chase SAC Partnership’s website.
Why are these plans needed?
To protect the rare and protected habitats and wildlife on the Chase for future generations.
Why close car parks?
There are 124 parking areas, some informal created by people parking on verges. There is a concentration of parking areas in the most sensitive areas for wildlife. Reducing the number of parking areas in these most sensitive areas will reduce the pressure and allow habitats and wildlife to recover.
How many parking locations will close?
It is proposed that 51 parking locations may close, however some will be subject to further consultation before decisions are made. Of the 51, 33 are small laybys that only hold a few cars.
Have you increased the number of car parks to be closed since the consultation was undertaken?
No. Based on the SAC documents, we have included the sites along Chase Road that are identified in the table as possible closures and this will be part of an options appraisal and further consultation. This represents the 35 closures, plus sites that will be considered further along Chase Road, making 51.
If car parks close, how will more visitors be accommodated?
The increase in visitors will be accommodated by increasing parking capacity in the more robust locations that are less of a risk to wildlife. Some of this will be by making better use of space at existing parking areas, plus expanding some parking areas so that overall parking capacity will increase.
What will happen to the closed car parks?
Where access is no longer required, parking areas will be restored to wildlife habitat. In some places, access may still be needed for emergency services and by the rangers for site management. In these cases, a gate barrier will be installed but any infrastructure no longer required will be removed to allow extra space for nature.
How will you stop people parking on verges and blocking roads?
Measures to prevent parking on verges could include bank and ditch or low wooden posts, kept as natural and in keeping with the character of the AONB. We will work with Highways colleagues to address parking along roads - there are several mechanisms that can be used, such as traffic regulation orders.
Why do you need to charge for parking?
The developer contributions will fund one-off improvements to the car parks and infrastructure, as part of the wider programme of work. However this all needs to be maintained in the long term and car parking fees will ensure that this is possible.
How will money from car parking be used?
The money will be used to maintain and run the parking facilities – surfacing, dealing with potholes, dog waste collection, litter clearance, fly tip removal, signs and interpretation, safety inspections, tree and vegetation management, barriers, etc. Any surplus after these costs are met will be invested in other aspects of the site – footpaths, interpretation, information, safety works, heritage conservation, habitat management and wildlife recovery.
Will profits from car parking be spent on other council services?
No. The funds are ring-fenced to support the countryside sites and cannot be spent elsewhere.
Will people with disabilities be able to park for free?
Yes – blue badge holders park for free.
Will there be any free parking left?
Yes. There will still be 50 free parking locations around the area.
Cannock Chase was gifted to the county and local people pay council tax already – so why should local people pay to park?
The site was gifted, but it costs a lot to run it and maintain it. While some of this is funded through council tax, there is a great deal of pressure on the public purse so parking charges provide a way for the people using the sites to help support their management.
Is the council trying to make a profit from the Chase?
No. Cannock Chase Country Park is a large site with lots of infrastructure and some of the most precious wildlife habitats and heritage in the country. It costs a lot to run it. We will never be able to fully recover these costs, let alone make a profit. Car parking charges would help us cover the costs of providing facilities and contribute to the wider management and improvement of the site.
Have the impacts on people been considered?
Yes. We have completed a community impact assessment. This found that there were many positives for people from the proposals, as they will improve access through better infrastructure. Where negatives were identified, we have looked at how they can be reduced. This is why we’re keeping free parking for blue badge holders and offering an annual permit to keep parking affordable for regular visitors.
Will this scheme discourage visitors?
No. The proposals will improve access and facilities, while at the same time protecting the rare wildlife that the site is famous for. The overall increase in parking capacity will ensure that more people can visit sustainably.
What has the car parking got to do with conservation?
There is a big concentration of parking areas in the sensitive areas where the plants and wildlife are most vulnerable. These laybys and parking areas have lots of paths – official and unofficial – running from them and they carve up the heathland into ever smaller blocks and damage the habitat, harming wildlife.
Isn’t it better to spread people out over the site to reduce the damage?
No. This just spreads the damage; we need to keep some larger areas of less disturbed and fragmented habitat to give some of our rarest wildlife a chance to survive.
Will green spaces be lost to create new car parks?
Some new parking areas are proposed in non-sensitive areas away from the protected habitats. They would be created in areas of little or no value for wildlife or heritage. Meanwhile the closure of the car parks on the SAC would allow important wildlife areas to recover and reduced footfall would protect wildlife. Overall, the proposals deliver a net environmental benefit.
Is it true that large parts of the Chase will not be accessible?
No. There is no change to legal access rights on the Chase and there will still be over 70 varied parking areas across the area, 50 of them free.
Will concerts still be held on the Chase?
Staffordshire County Council does not hold concerts on the Chase. Queries about concerts should be directed to Forestry England.
Does the council intend to build on the Chase or sell it?
No. Cannock Chase Country Park is one of the most important environmental assets in Staffordshire. The council will not sell it and our priority is to conserve and enhance it for future generations.
What damage is visitor pressure causing?
Visitor pressure can cause widening of paths, erosion, damage to vegetation, changes to soils, litter, fragmentation of habitat, disturbance to wildlife and fire damage.
What evidence is there of damage?
These impacts can be clearly seen on the site; a study was undertaken in 2012 that investigated recreational impacts in detail to inform the development of these proposals. This study will be repeated in the next couple of years, and there will also be ongoing monitoring to check how things are changing as the proposals are implemented.
Is Natural England’s monitoring of condition of the site up to date?
Yes. There is ongoing monitoring by Natural England to assess the condition of the site. This monitoring is more focused on the wider habitat management of the site. For example, it looks at the relative proportions of grasses, flowering plants, heather and shrubs, bracken, scrub and trees and the amount of bare ground habitat. While it may pick up recreational impacts, this is not its primary focus. It is done at intervals that allow for changes in the habitats arising from management activities (bracken control, heather cutting, etc) to be evident. Assessment specifically of recreational impacts requires a different approach and this is why separate work has been undertaken (see above).