Controversial Cannock Chase proposals backed by Staffordshire County Council

Controversial plans for the future of Cannock Chase have been backed by Staffordshire County Council.

Birches Valley
Birches Valley

The authority’s cabinet today agreed to implement its part of a 15-year conservation plan put forward by the Cannock Chase Special Area of Conservation Partnership (SAC).

Using £7.8 million of funding from housing developers, money will be spent on a range of conservation projects, including improving trails and way signs and providing conservation education in schools and with children’s groups.

It also includes a car parking strategy across the Chase to reduce footfall where the landscape and wildlife are most vulnerable and increase parking capacity in the more robust locations.

The report said that many of the current 124 parking locations are sited in the most sensitive areas of the Chase, with users of the paths and tracks leading from them disrupting plants and wildlife on either side of them.

The conservation proposal includes closing up to 51 parking locations in the most sensitive areas, including 33 small areas which have space for four cars at most.

Critics say the move will put some people off visiting. There are already parking charges at five Cannock Chase car parks, but the new proposals would expand them across the 30sq mile site. Some areas would remain free to park in.

It is understood all of the money raised will go back into managing the beauty spot.

'Moral duty'

By the end of the process there will be more parking than now, including around 50 free parking locations with 500 spaces, the council said.

Disabled access will be maintained, improvements made to an existing disabled access trail and Blue Badge parking will remain free on county council car parks.

Victoria Wilson, Staffordshire Council’s cabinet member for communities and culture, said: “We want people to enjoy Cannock Chase, but in a few years’ time we expect there will be around three million visits every year and most users travel there by car.

“Visitors should understand that almost everything that we do there, whether it’s dog walking and rambling, cycling or horse riding, potentially has an adverse effect which we have to manage.

“We have a legal and moral duty to protect the Chase, especially the vulnerable wildlife and landscape, and the conservation plan we backed today sets out how we and others will do that for the next generation, while maintaining open access for the growing number of visitors.”

Councillor Wilson added: “The overriding consideration is the need to put plans in place now so our children and grandchildren can continue to enjoy the Chase in future as we enjoy it now.”

Councillor David Williams said both accidental and deliberate damage has been seen on the Chase.

He added: "Trained, qualified ecologists back this proposal, the majority of my constituents back this proposal."

Councillor Julia Jessall, Staffordshire County Council's cabinet member for the Environment, said the Chase will become a "sandy wasteland" if action is not taken.

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