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Published September 23rd 2020
Wildlife, plants and visitors all to benefit from new plans
A 15 year plan has been unveiled to preserve and promote a nature site in Staffordshire that forms a vital part of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty within the county. The 1,300 hectares of Cannock Chase contains plants and species of such national and international importance that it is listed as both a Special Area of Conservation and a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Not only does Cannock Chase boast a markedly varied landscape combining ancient woodlands, river valleys, wetlands, and open heathland, but the range of wildlife 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. Now Cannock Chase, which lies within the 26 square mile Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is to benefit from a £7.8 million investment over 15 years - planned by the Cannock Chase Special Area Conservation Partnership (SAC) and funded by money from housing developers.
An area of woodland at Cannock Chase
As well as millions of pounds to protect Cannock Chase's landscape and wildlife, the investment will also result in more car parking spaces as well as continued free parking in 50 locations, improved trails and way signs, and conservation education in schools and with children's groups, as well as directly with visitors to the nature site. 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. 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."
Some of the area's outstanding open heathland
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. However, no parking at Cannock Chase will be more expensive than at Chasewater, which currently costs £3 a day. Of the 51 parking areas considered for closure, 33 are laybys that hold four vehicles or less. It is anticipated that the annual number of visitors to the Chase will have risen to three million by 2026.