Multi-million pound plan to preserve Staffordshire beauty spot

MORE car parking spaces, continued free parking in 50 locations and millions of pounds’ worth of investment is being planned to protect Cannock Chase’s landscape and wildlife.

Money will also be spent on improving trails and way signs and providing conservation education in schools and with children’s groups, as well as direct with visitors on the Chase.

The £7.8 million investment over 15 years is planned by the Cannock Chase Special Area Conservation Partnership (SAC) and will be funded by money from housing developers.

Staffordshire County Council will be considering later this year how the proposals might be implemented on its land.

Victoria Wilson, Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for Communities, said: "The county council has a legal and moral duty to protect the landscape and wildlife of Cannock Chase, balancing that protection with continued free access for around 2.5 million visitors a year.

"At the same time the SAC has agreed to introduce a car parking strategy across all the landowners on the Chase with the intention of reducing footfall where the landscape and wildlife are most vulnerable and increasing parking capacity in the more robust locations.”

She added: "None of the proposals changes people’s rights of access to Cannock Chase and Blue Badge holders will still park for free at all county council sites.

"The proposed changes to the car parks are part of a longer term need to influence people’s habits to protect one of the jewels in Staffordshire’s crown while maintaining open access.

"The reality is that while many small laybys will close, there will be more parking places overall, disabled access will be provided for and 50 locations across the Chase will still have free parking.”

The county council, which already charges at three car parks in the Cannock Chase and Chasewater area, is expected to publish detailed proposals in November for all-party scrutiny.

"It is anticipated the authority will consider charges initially at a maximum of 12 additional parking areas, but nothing will be implemented until 2022 at the earliest".

The Cannock Chase Special Area Conservation Partnership (SAC) is a consortium of local authorities that receives S106 and CIL money from housing developers, plus interested parties such as Staffordshire County Council, Forestry England and Cannock Chase AONB. Staffordshire CC does not administer the S106 and CIL money directly and is therefore a non-voting member of the SAC.

Of the 51 parking areas considered for closure, two-thirds (33) of these are laybys that hold four vehicles or less.

By 2026 it is anticipated that the annual number of visitors will have risen to three million per annum.

The 1,300 hectares of Cannock Chase, and the 26 square mile Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that it lies within, contains plants and species of such national and international importance that it is also listed as both a Special Area of Conservation and a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Cannock Chase has a remarkedly varied landscape, with ancient woodlands, river valleys and wetlands, as well as open heathland. The range of flora and fauna includes herds of fallow deer, four of Britain’s six reptile species, rare and endangered birds including the woodlark and nightjar, and some seldom found plants.


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