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Why is this project happening?
- 1244 hectares of Cannock Chase is designated a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). This is the highest legal environmental protection in the country. It is illegal to harm the SAC in any way; directly or indirectly, alone or in combination. Cannock Chase SAC is currently suffering from a high level of unintentional harm caused by increasing visitor usage. As future housing development in Staffordshire continues to rise, so does the local population and also the amount of people visiting the Chase each year. Since 2013 financial contributions have been collected from new housing developments within 15km of Cannock Chase. This money is to be invested into the Chase so that we can improve the infrastructure, facilities and information available to everyone who visits.
- The goal of all these works is to improve everyone’s enjoyment of Cannock Chase making open air recreation more accessible than ever before, whilst at the same time safeguarding the futures of all the nature and wildlife which make it a truly special landscape.
Is this work/are these documents connected to the SCC grazing plans for the Chase?
- This is a separate project, although both projects will consider and be sympathetic to the work of the other.
- Grazing heathland with cattle is a traditional management method. It is well established that it is often the best, most natural and most sustainable way to improve the diversity of the rare plants and animal species on these sensitive and fragile habitats. The grazing and natural behaviour of the cattle will ensure the heathlands of Cannock Chase remain open and in the best condition for wildlife and members of the public.
Will this work restrict people accessing and using the Chase?
- No, it is illegal to block access to any statutory rights of way (unless there are exceptions for emergencies or maintenance).
- This project welcomes people to visit Cannock Chase. In fact in the future we expect more and more people will want to visit the Chase. The works proposed in these plans are to try and get the site ready for this rise in future visitor numbers so that everyone can still find a place on the Chase to relax, exercise and enjoy the outdoors.
- We especially want to improve the visitor centres on and around the Chase and to encourage more people to use these great places when planning their days out.
- The management works of Cannock Chase are not intended to impede anyone’s business or reduce anyone’s enjoyment of the site. However, it is considered an offence for people to generate a private income via the usage of common land. During these management works we are reviewing how certain business utilise the common.
Why is heathland protected and favoured over other habitats?
- Cannock Chase SAC represents the largest remaining continuous area of heathland in the Midlands. In the last 200 years, the UK has lost 90% of its existing heathland habitat making it one the rarest habitat types in the country and a priority for conservation efforts. As such, a number of the animals and plants which rely on these habitats are also endangered and are becoming increasingly scarce and also have their own legal protections.
- Certain parts of Cannock Chase, Brocton Coppice, are recognised ancient woodlands, meaning they are considered as irreplaceable habitats. In these areas woodland management is being enacted to safe guard the trees.
- The pine plantation forest on Cannock Chase is owned by Forestry England for timber production – a natural and replaceable raw material. Felling the pine trees is not destructive process; think of it like a farmer’s field of wheat, only this time the crop they’re growing is trees and it can take around 25-40 years for the harvest to be ready. There is less biodiversity in plantation forest as the dense canopy of pine trees doesn’t allow for much else to grow. This doesn’t mean that nothing else lives here, it’s still home to many creatures and critters. When the trees reach the end of their lifecycle and are cut, the clear-fell provides perfect breeding ground for our rare winged residents and other wonderful wildlife. So be aware whenever your visiting Cannock Chase as at different times of the year felling will take place. Look out for safety signage and stay away from these areas until the timber extraction is finished.
What is the issue with going off-track and creating new paths?
- Permissive paths are unofficial routes created by visitors without the landowners consent. They are not legally recognised and often are created gradually overtime by people exploring the site. However, these permissive paths often go straight through very sensitive habitats. People walking and riding along them can significantly harm rare and endangered plants and animals as well as the Chase’s numerous archaeological features. The legal footpaths have been designed purposefully to avoid these sensitive areas, which is why we ask people to stick to the existing footpath network and not to create any new ones.
- Everyone has the right to roam over designated open access land; however this designation does not cover the whole of Cannock Chase. All of the SAC land is designated open access and people are able to roam wherever they would wish to. However when roaming, members of the public should be aware that this legal permission only refers to people on foot (not cycles, horses or motor vehicles).
- Before travelling to Cannock Chase, new visitors are urged to look online, use available maps or contact the visitor centres to plan their walking, riding or cycle routes. The signage is available along certain routes on site, but is not exhaustive – this is something we will be working to improve in the future.
What is the harm in not picking up my dogs waste? – It’s outside and will biodegrade
- Leaving dog waste can drastically reduce people’s enjoyment of this very special and beautiful landscape and dog poo has become a large-scale recognised problem in certain areas.
- Additionally, dog waste has very high levels of nitrogen and other nutrients within it. These chemicals are incredibly harmful to the fragile low nutrient soils of the SAC. They effectively poison the rare plants whilst also promoting the growth of undesirable weeds such as nettles and thistles etc.
Why is it being suggested to reduce the number of car park locations?
- There are over 123 separate car parks across Cannock Chase. This is a colossal number! Many of these car parks are unofficial and very small (grass/dirt pull-ins and lay-bys for 2-3 cars). This is far too many car parks for the current site owners to afford to maintain and so most of them are in a poor state of disrepair, with lots of littering and fly tipping occurring as well as some anti-social behaviour.
- We want to reduce the total number of separate car parks a little but make all the other car parks much better quality than they are today. Our plans will see better; surfacing, signage, dog bins, more disabled parking, new information panels with maps showing routes, special parking spaces for horse boxes on car parks etc. all across Cannock Chase.
- Through improvements and rationalisation of the remaining car parks our plans would actually see the total number of parking spaces on Cannock Chase increase , especially around our popular visitor centres which often run out of space on sunny weekends.
Why is it being suggested that car park charging may be introduced in the future?
- Cannock Chase is a large landscape which requires a lot of money, staff and resource. The site needs to generate income for it’s landowners to make it viable for them to retain in the future.
- Currently 45% of all parking spaces on Cannock Chase are ‘pay to park’. In our plans we propose to increase pay car parks by 9%. Any and all funds raised from these car parks will be used to support the ongoing management of the car parks and pay for the staff and rangers who keep Cannock Chase safe and clean for us all to enjoy.