Countryside management options proposed

October 6, 2015

FINAL options for the preservation and protection of Staffordshire’s countryside parks and green spaces are being proposed for a three month public consultation.

The four ideas for how the estate should be managed in future will be commented on by the county council’s Prosperous Staffordshire Select Committee, before the authority’s Cabinet meets later this month to consider approval for the consultation process.

Mark Winnington, Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for Economy, Environment and Transport, said: “We have been completely open from the beginning that the sole intention of this consultation is to protect the countryside estate for future generations and maximise its contribution to the economic and social wellbeing of people of Staffordshire.

“We’re not looking for a one-size-fits-all solution and the proposal makes clear the final solution could be a combination of the four options for the different country parks, picnic areas, various smaller sites and disused railway lines we are responsible for.”

The 12 week consultation will follow months of preliminary talks with interested parties, including the Forestry Commission, Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, parish councils and users’ groups, and feedback from the council’s Prosperous Staffordshire Select Committee.

The four options proposed for public consultation are:

  1. Maintain council ownership and seek opportunities to increase income from existing sites by working with volunteers, community, third sector and private parties;
  2. Transfer management (not ownership) on a site-by-site basis to local community or voluntary sector groups, such as parish councils;
  3. Establish a partnership of landowners to manage all green spaces in a particular area;
  4. Establish a not-for-profit trading company to run and develop parts of the estate.

Three sites with a combined size of less than one per cent of the countryside estate are being removed from the consultation following the scrutiny process. Options for those three, including the possibility of selling them, will be considered separately at a later date.

Mark Winnington said: “In the spirit of true consultation we initially suggested a range of possible options used in other parts of the country.

“The option to sell land only ever applied to these sites with little amenity value, but the inaccurate suggestion that we were considering selling off far more is preventing a constructive debate about the remaining 99 per cent of the countryside estate.”

He added: “If approved, consultation will begin next month [and I hope people will look at these four options, consider them in the light of how we’re trying to safeguard our common heritage in an affordable manner and take part in the discussion.”

The three sites withdrawn from the process, less than one per cent of the countryside estate, are:

  1. 16 hectares at Broad Lane, Essington. No public access but is bounded by two rights of way. Jointly owned with SSDC
  2. Four hectares at Fair Oak, off Walsall Road, Essington. No public access area of woodland and grassland.
  3. Two hectares of land, in a strip adjacent to the A34 at Branston. No public access.