Staffordshire council to create new nature reserve in town

Land near Stafford town centre is set to become the borough council’s biggest nature reserve after community leaders gave plans the green light.

The land off Fairway, Stafford. Photo: Google
The land off Fairway, Stafford. Photo: Google

Stafford Borough Council already owns the 42-acre section of floodplain meadow next to Fairway, which is now to be declared a Local Nature Reserve (LNR).

The land is currently described as “poor quality from an ecological perspective”, a report to cabinet members said, but habitat management can improve biodiversity and “create an asset rich in wildlife for the local community to enjoy.”

Current proposals include planting up to 10,000 trees, restoring native black poplars to the riverside, developing flower meadows and enhancing wetland scrapes.

Councillor Jonathan Price, cabinet member for environment, who presented the report at Thursday’s meeting, said: “My love of nature and passion to create greener, biodiverse areas in our borough, along with that of our officers, has been a driving force to secure this space for future generations.

“I can’t express how excited I am to see this initial idea grow and develop into the plan you see before us – and I know that residents in the borough will be just as pleased to see this Local Nature Reserve become a reality.

“The 42 acres – or 17 hectares – we are proposing shows just how important this is to us. The project will result in the largest Stafford Borough Council-owned Local Nature Reserve and it will be right here in the centre of Stafford.

“The proposed LNR area is already an important piece of Stafford’s floodplain, which includes both the River Sow and Penk within its boundary. This beautiful area presents a perfect opportunity to enhance this green corridor by restoring habitats, to encourage and benefit our local wildlife.

“Lockdown has shown just how much people value and need green spaces. With so many residents showing an interest in developing nature areas it is hoped we can help facilitate a network of volunteers to support our conservation work.

“Only by spending time in protected places can we also develop a sense of how rich in birds, flowers, plants and insects our countryside could be. Without benchmarks such as this proposed space we lose all sense of what we should expect and what we should protect. We lose all sense of the wild and our connection to it.

“Stafford Borough aims to develop a protected space to be enjoyed and appreciated by our residents, both now and for future generations in years to come.”

Fellow cabinet members welcomed the plans.

Councillor Jeremy Pert, cabinet member for community and health, said: “I remember when I first came to Stafford, 25 years ago or more, how beautiful the borough was when I got off the train, walking through Victoria Park. Outdoor space is really important for people’s health and it’s also important for the local environment putting our money where our mouth is.

“I really support this. It is something we will keep looking back on over the next decades.”

Deputy leader Councillor Mike Smith said: “To plant 10,000 trees in an area is an extremely good management measure for our carbon footprint.”

Councillor Frances Beatty, cabinet member for economic development and planning, said: “It is a tremendously exciting project. It is clear that we need more places for people to walk in and enjoy and green spaces that Stafford has to offer.

“This should work with the Stafford Brooks project, which aims to restore and enhance infrastructure across Stafford along the riverway corridor, linking the town and the countryside.”

Council leader Patrick Farrington said: “Everyone is supportive of the proposals – as we know we want to make our borough a place where people want to come and live, work and stay.”

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