Cannock Chase District Council's Conservative group leader, Olivia Lyons, has written to the leader of Staffordshire County Council, Alan White, requesting he join her in lobbying the Cannock Chase Special Area of Conservation Partnership (SAC), for a public consultation over the £7.8 million masterplan to close car parks, introduce parking charges and manage Cannock Chase over the coming years.
Within the letter, Councillor Lyons voiced concerns over the proposals to close some smaller car parks in favour of the larger ‘pay to park’ car parks.
She says she fears it may unintentionally restrict access for local residents and could potentially displace parked cars to unsuitable locations, such as nearby roads and verges.
The letter has the support of Councillor Justin Johnson, shadow portfolio holder for environment and climate change on Cannock Chase District Council.
Officials say the move is designed to protect wildlife and habitats across the Chase, but critics say charges will put people off visiting the beauty spot.
Calling on the leader of Staffordshire County Council, Alan White, to join her in requesting further consultation, Councillor Lyons said that last year’s engagement by SAC was poor and, as a result, residents feel ill-informed.
Councillor Lyons is asking the SAC to undertake a public consultation focused on the car parking. It will allow the SAC to raise awareness of any potential risks posed to the habitats of the Chase, whilst enabling the opportunity for residents to voice concerns and make suggestions.
Councillor Lyons added: “We are incredibly lucky to have Cannock Chase on our doorstep and it is imperative we do everything in our power to protect it.
"We have a duty to preserve and enhance our beautiful surroundings, ensuring the Chase is not only a place where nature and wildlife can flourish, but a place that can be enjoyed and treasured by both local residents and future generations.
"My concern is that, as it stands, there is a risk that local residents could be negatively impacted, and our green spaces be subject to greater damage due to the displacement of cars."
Group Save Cannock Chase was formed in June by residents who noticed Chase Road had been closed off during lockdown and has since been protesting against the SAC's plans.
Cannock Chase and Stafford Borough councillors have put forward the issue for discussion at authority meetings in the coming days.
A spokesman for the SAC said: "8,169 visits were made to the consultation website. 6,066 were unique views – meaning 6,066 individual IP accounts visited the website. 408 responses were submitted which represented 130 individuals.
"This consultation does not represent the only and final chance for the public to provide input. As specific projects move forward to be implemented, separate consultations will be held where there are options to be further considered to include public engagement."
Victoria Wilson, cabinet member for communities and culture on Staffordshire County Council, said: “Cannock Chase is one of Staffordshire’s natural gems and we want people to use and enjoy it in a way that protects it for future generations.
“By 2026 we expect visitor numbers on the Chase to grow to three million people a year. We have a legal duty to protect the special landscape and rare species that make it such a place of national and international significance.
“That is why the Cannock Chase Special Area of Conservation Partnership ran its consultation last year. Until now parking policy has been in the hands of several different landowners and the SAC initiative aims to create a single parking strategy for 26 square miles of the AONB which will help manage wear and tear of the landscape.
“The county council is currently reviewing the results of that consultation before making a formal response. We have just received the letter from the Cannock Chase District Council Conservative Group and will be considering their request.”