Talks on the best way to manage Staffordshire County Council’s countryside estate are planned to continue after a strong response from public and private groups.
Initial consultation identified two groups willing to take on management of a nature park and a picnic area in the immediate future, while many others wanted further discussions about different management options.
Gill Heath, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet member for Communities, said:
We are retaining ownership of all the country parks, greenways, picnic areas or other green spaces included in this review.
This review is entirely about how we best manage such a diverse estate in an affordable manner for everyone’s benefit.
We’ve had some positive conversations with different groups, exchanged ideas about what might work and the suggestion now is that we carry on with more detailed discussions to find the right long-term answers.”
An update on the countryside estate review will be presented to the county council’s Prosperous Staffordshire scrutiny committee this month, before being considered by Cabinet in December.
The report notes that Heath Hayes and Wimblebury Parish Council is in the process of taking over the maintenance and management of Wimblebury Mound picnic area, while the RSPB is preparing to do the same at Consall Nature Park.
The authority is looking to reduce its countryside estates budget by £600,000 by March 2021 and believes working with the public and private sector to manage the estate, which will remain in council ownership, is the best way to reduce costs while maintaining the sites for public use.
Gill Heath added:
Depending on their own circumstances, many of the organisations we’ve been in talks with have discussed different ideas with us, such as taking on the management and maintenance of sites in clusters, or perhaps over a period of time rather than all at once, or even using economies of scale with other sites they own to do a good job cost-effectively.
Whatever the result, we’re determined to find the right long term solution to maintain these public assets as places we can all use and enjoy.”