Cows to graze on Cannock Chase as £2m conservation plan approved
Cows will soon be grazing on part of Cannock Chase after a conservation plan was backed with £2 million worth of funding.
An agreement with government-funded body Natural England means Staffordshire County Council will receive more than £2m towards managing the wildlife areas of the country park over the next 10 years.
Bosses at the Cannock Chase Trekking Centre say the presence of cows on their trekking routes would scare their horses and cause insurance costs to soar.
And an online petition against the plans has been signed by more than 6,000 people.
'The best we can for all interests'
Councillor Mark Winnington, the county council’s cabinet member responsible, said: “The Chase is identified at national and European level for its wildlife significance and we are required by law to protect and maintain its special features while, at the same time, balancing those duties with maintaining its use for recreation and enjoyment.
“We welcome this tremendous support for its future management. There are few sites in the region that are so significant for wildlife and heritage, but also so important for people’s enjoyment.
“Through this scheme we will get the best we can for all interests and use more sustainable and effective ways to manage this beautiful place.”
Natural England has approved a plan to support continued restoration and management work to help bring the habitats into better condition for wildlife.
Approved management methods include controlling areas of scrub, trees and bracken, cutting and burning heather to prompt regrowth and careful management of wetlands and wood pasture habitats.
The new scheme also includes a pilot grazing scheme and the exploration of wider grazing on the site to make management more sustainable and to address management needs that can’t be replicated through other means.
Emma Johnson, Natural England area manager, said: “As people become increasingly aware of the need to balance their enjoyment of nature with the need to look after it, it is our role to advise councils like Staffordshire on how best to achieve this balance.
“That is why we are delighted to support the new conservation plan for Cannock Chase, an area loved and enjoyed by many.
"Famed for its beauty and rare wildlife, it is more important than ever that we conserve this valuable heathland and bring the site back into good condition through sustainable and effective techniques such as grazing.”
Cannock Chase is an internationally significant home to rare plants and animals, especially important as around 80 per cent of heathland has been lost in the UK since 1800.
Councillor Winnington added: “By law we must preserve Cannock Chase’s natural habitats and Natural England expects us to use environmentally-friendly methods such as grazing to help manage vegetation to prevent the land becoming overgrown.
“The current grazing plan beginning next year involves up to six cattle in one small area and all rights of way are being kept open and the area will remain fully accessible.
“Before the grazing scheme can be expanded there would be a further public consultation and the scheme would need approval from the Planning Inspectorate.”
Cannock Chase is and remains legally protected because much of it is common land and it is designated as both a Site of Special Scientific Interest and Special Area of Conservation, within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.