We’re proud to be residents of Cannock Chase: Like you we walk our dogs, cycle, run, and spend time with our families in this beautiful part of the world.

We’ve been aware for some time of proposals to change the way our car parks work on the Chase by closing some smaller car parks and lay-bys, and introducing charging to some free car parks. We’ve seen the topic grow into a hotly debated local issue and taken the time to understand the debate. We also reached out for your views in a recent survey.

Today we’d like to summarise our understanding of the issue and outline our position. In drawing our conclusions we were informed by three reports for the Cannock Chase SAC by Footprint Ecology:

The Fact Base

  • The document Impacts of recreation to Cannock Chase SAC 2012 explores the ecological impact of a wide range of activity on the Chase. Focus is given to the widening of existing paths, users straying from designated routes, and the creation of new paths
  • The document suggests a parking plan coupled with route signposting may reduce this impact
  • The document offers views that the benefits of managing conservation through car parking may be short-lived, with possible knock-on consequences of channelling significant numbers of visitors into a few key locations
  • The document also offers comment on parking charges leading visitors to park on roads and other undesignated locations
  • The document The Cannock Chase Special Area of Conservation (SAC), Strategic Access Management & Monitoring Measures Detailed Implementation Plan: Car Parking overhauls the parking strategy for the Chase, proposing the closure of many smaller car parks and the introduction of car parking charges in others
  • The original impact document did not advocate car park closures and the proposal doesn’t show whether alternatives were considered, or what factors led to this plan being selected as the most effective approach
  • The proposal doesn’t adequately explore the risks and unintended consequences of this approach. Many of these were called out in the original impact document, for example overcrowding at visitor hubs, and parking on the roadside
  • The original report focused on path erosion from heavy use: the proposal doesn’t address how removing visitors from one area and concentrating them heavily in another area will impact other paths
  • The proposal does not show how existing charging revenue is being used to improve the condition of paths, to promote conservation or identify any lessons to be learned in implementing this plan
  • While the proposal opens with a statement about conservation in the AONB, it does not link to a benefits case or lay out the measurable conservation outcomes the plan is expected to achieve
  • A public consultation on the changes, conducted in Q4 2019, reached only 130 residents and businesses. 78 of these responded to questions on car park charging, with 50% strongly disagreeing with charging for car parking in more locations (Figure 17 in the document), while 39% of respondents opposed car park closures
  • Our recent survey, which was answered by 956 people, shows 95% against car park closures, and 84% against car park charging.

Our Position

  • We love Cannock Chase and want to see it well cared for, now and in the future
  • The management of Cannock Chase should include a plan for the provision and maintenance of suitable visitor car parking
  • There is no cohesive strategy and vision for the future of the Chase which adequately considers all conservation, access, biodiversity, ecological, economic and climate aspects of this internationally important landscape. This must be addressed immediately
  • The proposed parking plan is a significant change of direction in the strategy for managing car parking on Cannock Chase and we do not feel that a strong enough case has been made for the link between the conservation issues and the car parking plan:
    • The original impact document did not recommend car park closures. There must be a clear line of sight between the conservation evidence base and the action taken in this and other proposals
    • The proposal does not outline measurable conservation benefits, and does not address any of the risks occasioned by implementing a new strategy
    • The plan contains significant changes to the provision of parking and therefore warrants further public scrutiny and debate
  • There were flaws in the original public consultation which meant it did not engage with enough people to form a meaningful response. Further there is little evidence that the results of the consultation informed the evolution of the car parking strategy.
  • We are calling for the debate on the proposal to be re-opened and for effective collaborative consultation to take place with the local community on a solution which both protects the Chase and allows visitors to continue to enjoy its beauty.

Our Actions

  • On 9th September 2020 Chase Community Independents Group Councillors supported a motion at Cannock Chase District Council to write to the SAC Partnership urging them to re-open the public consultation
  • We will continue to engage constructively with Councillors and other stakeholders on this issue
  • We will promote opportunities for the community of Cannock Chase to contribute directly to the sustainable future of the Chase