The following unedited letter was sent to The Chronical from Jackie Oliver, which then featured an edited version.
I have just read your article on the front page of August 13’s Chronicle by Jordon Reynolds.
I have to question what has happened to investigative reporting as clearly from this report it could be perceived that Ann Elphick speaks for the people.
I would like to set the record straight. Ann Elphick may support the Council strategy to spend approximately £7.8 million on closing carparks and opening a few charged carparks I do not however believe this is the view of the majority of the people of Cannock Chase.
The Facebook page Save Cannock Chase Discussion Group has 1,792 members who are totally against the strategies of the Council, who want to fence of large swathes of the Chase and close carparks, introducing a few paid carparks spending £7.8 million in doing so. This strategy will corral walkers into specific areas of the Chase, which may have a detrimental effect on the ecology and habitat of our AONB.
Cannock Chase was gifted to the people of the area so that the people could freely enjoy the countryside.
The Current strategies by the Council may also potentially discriminate against many including the disabled and those with limited mobility who will be denied access to certain areas they currently enjoy visiting. I am not aware of any impact assessment with regard to our disabled people to ensure that there is no breach of the Equality Act 2010.
Further, we are currently in a recession; people have lost their jobs or are on reduced pay. To many, the Chase is a haven for them to take their families and enjoy nature freely. This will no longer be the case as many may not be able to afford a daily charge to visit limited areas of the chase.
In addition, this blocking of public access to the Chase goes completely against the Government strategy to encourage people into the open spaces and countryside for their health and wellbeing and to assist in the fight against obesity.
Please be aware of the following:
• The Car Park in Oldacre Lane that is the access carpark to the ancient Duck Pond has already been closed. I am not aware of any plans to allow public access in the future.
• The Chase Road is earmarked for being closed along the whole of its length and all of the carparks in that area earmarked for being permanently closed. This road gives access to many historical sites for example but not limited to:
o Tackaroo coal drop and weighbridge from the first world war.
o The Glacier
o Freda’s grave – Freda’s grave is tended by volunteers who will no longer have access
to carry out this very important maintenance.
o The Coppice of Oaks – one of our oldest woodland areas.
In addition the Chase road is a crucial road that is used by people with limited mobility so that they may park their cars in a quiet area and enjoy the wildlife who visit the area such as woodpeckers, deer and other wild animals and birds. The council have already set in motion this closure by putting up a barrier to stop parking on the triangle.
This historical area may in future have the potential to only be accessed by strong healthy people who are able to walk for miles, cyclists and horse riders (providing horse riders are not next to be shut
out). This in my opinion is wrong on so many levels.
The number of car park closures is extensive, and I invite you to do your research on this.
In addition, I am reliably informed that public record states that Cannock Chase Council receives over £40,000 per annum for the management of the Chase from funding and other councils. At least 75% of that budget goes on staff and office costs. In the three years up to 2018, spending on Deer Management was zero. In 2019 £1,710.00 of the funding for the AONB was spent on a meeting and lunch at Brocton Golf Club. This information I am informed is freely available.
Fencing off large swathes of the Chase, closing carparks and introducing a few paid carparks shuts out the very people the gifting of this area was designed to help. The local people who go for short daily walks, The disabled, people with limited mobility, the poor.
Spending £7.8 million on closing a multitude of carparks and opening a few that are charged for is in my opinion a mismanagement of this money. I cannot see how they can possibly recoup this spend from carpark charges in the short or long term let alone recoup enough funds to also maintain the Chase.
To Summarise. I fully understand that the Chase needs investing in and caring for. This £7.8 million along with the annual funding, if invested carefully and used primarily for the caretaking and management of the habitat of the Chase including the recruitment of Rangers, would last for many decades and enable our Area Of Natural Beauty to be preserved.
Please do not advocate the wasteful spend of the £7.8 million as proposed which could be more wisely spent.
Member of Save Cannock Chase Discussion Group