Consultation over Cannock Chase proposals 'should be reviewed to see if more work needs to be done'

A consultation over controversial plans to introduce measures across Cannock Chase should be reviewed, a committee has recommended.

Cannock Chase
Cannock Chase

Proposals had been put forward by the Cannock Chase Special Area of Conservation (SAC) Partnership in a bid to help "safeguard" the area.

But the consultation over the measures – which include closing car parks and introducing charges at others – only saw 408 responses from 130 people.

In total 8,169 visits were made to the consultation website with 6,066 being unique individual IP accounts, chiefs in the SAC have confirmed.

Cannock Chase

But now Staffordshire County Council's Prosperous Staffordshire Select Committee has asked for the consultation to be reviewed to see if it was robust enough.

County councillor Ian Parry, chairman of the committee, made the call – backed by other members – after hearing concerns over whether it had reached enough people.

He said the process should be reviewed to ensure the consultation was as accessible as possible to people – and to see if any additional work needs to be carried out.

A total of 35 parking areas will be closed and charges applied at another 11 under plans by the SAC, which is made up of councils and organisations across Staffordshire.

Safeguard

Visitors must already pay to park at five Cannock Chase car parks, but the plans would expand charges across the 30sq mile site in a bid to protect wildlife and habitats, while laybys and pull-in areas routinely used by dog walkers, cyclists, runners and other visitors would be be closed off, with more spaces created at the other car parks.

Officials say the move will help safeguard the future of the beauty spot, but critics have argued it will make the Chase less accessible to people living around the area.

Stuart Haynes, from the Save Cannock Chase campaign group, hit out at the plans which he said would have an impact on children from low income families.

Cannock Chase

He also criticised the "lack of public consultation" at the meeting, held on November 12, and argued it would make the Chase less accessible to elderly and disabled people.

County councillor Victoria Wilson, cabinet member for communities and culture, argued they weren't asking people to walk further but drive a bit further to other car parks.

She said the consultation had been advertised on council websites, on flyers dotted around the Chase, on social media and through information sent out to media outlets.

Cannock Chase

She said at the meeting: "In terms of the consultation and making people aware of the proposals, the public consultation was led by the SAC partnership. It was not arranged by the county council.

"People will say nobody was aware but I don't think that the SAC could have done much more to make people aware of the plans. In terms of the number of people who saw the proposals and saw the consultation online, there was around 6,000 hits on the website and 408 responses from 130 individuals.

"There was 6,000 people who saw the plans and only 130 people actually felt they needed to comment on them."

The proposals will be debated at a Staffordshire County Council cabinet meeting next month.

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