Macclesfield Forest Action Plan

United Utilities has worked closely with local stakeholders to create an action plan to improve the experience of visitors to Macclesfield Forest and to minimise the impact on local residents who use the forest regularly.  

We have commissioned several surveys over the last 12 months to better understand what improvements can be made to meet the priorities and commitments we have set (please see below). Already, we have trialled various new measures within the forest and the plan below sets out further steps we will take. To date, we have made good progress and this provides a solid foundation to implement our plan.

We have discussed this plan with local stakeholders/groups who have an interest in the forest and we pledge to update it regularly on this page to provide a clear record of progress.

In 12 months’ time, we will hold a meeting with local stakeholders to review actions/progress and refine the plan for the medium to long term, assessing the impact of measures taken over the next year.

Priorities

  • Safety of local residents/community and multiple users of the Forest
  • Minimise impact of forest activities on local residents/community
  • No desire to increase visitors to the Forest
  • Find joint solutions taking on board all agencies/residents views & working in partnership
  • Development of long term strategy with range of survey, trials and data collation to make informed evidence based decisions

Commitments

Infrastructure – We commit to maintaining the infrastructure and making improvements where appropriate

Engagement – We commit to engage with all forms of media/stakeholders and to educate

People – We commit to responsible staffing, involve volunteers and to undertake safety audits

Traffic & Parking – We commit to further trials and reviewing items such as cones, road painting and temporary overflow parking areas

Mountain biking – We commit to further signage, patrols and developing an association

Biodiversity – We commit to further surveys, improvements and protecting our high value habitats in line with our joint industry conservation statement, as follows:

United Utilities has developed an ambitious plan to deliver its key biodiversity objectives at Macclesfield Forest. The strategy is supported by our key ecological stakeholders and partners including specialist ecological advisors, Cheshire Wildlife Trust, Forestry England, regional wildlife specialists and local key priority species advisors. Implementation of the plan is progressing through targeted management works, supported by specialist ecological surveys and advice, with resources focused on higher priority zones and species within the forest where maximum biodiversity benefits can be achieved. 

The entire forest is designated a Site of Biological Importance and management for biodiversity will continue to be delivered across the whole site to ensure continued habitat and wildlife protection and enhancement within this treasured natural resource.

Please see our action plan for further details on the commitments listed.

Infrastructure

  • Continuation of maintenance of high standard forest infrastructure including new safety and boundary fencing and range of visitor/environmental/biking information signage to provide quality visitor experience and local community nature asset
  • Utilise electronic messaging signs on strategic access roads to display car parking capacity & safety messaging (at expected busy periods)
  • Additional litter bins to be considered in strategic locations
  • Review additional signage which is highlighted as a need by key stakeholders
  • Consider increasing footpath/bridleway/track provision adjacent to roads to improve visitor safety - discussions ongoing with key user groups

Engagement

  • Targeted media communications on safety messages including the Countryside Code & Cheshire Rural Crime Team campaigns (also at expected busy periods)
  • Regular news stories and updates will be produced and provided to all key stakeholders to update them on work within the Forest (these will be produced dependant on time of year, key stakeholder messages and relevant subjects in the Forest)
  • Attendance at key stakeholder meetings will continue including close liaison with partners such as Cheshire East Council parking enforcement & various police teams.
  • Development of new stakeholder engagement plan
  • Local educational engagement – including supporting Peak District National Park Educational team using Forest/facilities for primary and secondary school field based educational courses on conservation topics such as river studies, habits and soils.
  • Work with the local authorities to reinvigorate the Public Space Protection Order within the forest – linked to dog fouling/control
  • Consider actions linked to rise in commercial dog walking companies using Forest

People

  • Review increased staffing presence – including successful autumn trial of additional Ranger with our key partner, Peak District National Park. Additionally extra UU staff and paid security marshals at expected busy periods.
  • Additional litter picking equipment will be provided to people involved with supporting UU
  • Following successful evening Forest patrol operation in the autumn, schedule further patrols with police and partners in 2022
  • Support any required expansion of the existing organised volunteer program
  • Undertake annual safety audits

Traffic & Parking

Following sharing recent traffic survey data with Cheshire East Highways and with essential further engagement with the authorities, the following are being considered:

  • A one way system around the Forest road network will be trialled (on set communicated periods) with support from the relevant authorities and UU support staff – personnel could be provided to support such an initiative.
  • Additional traffic management measures such as temporary cones will be trialled on the busiest sections of roads/parking areas within the Forest (different sections of on road parking bays within the year).
  • Additional line painting (including double yellow lines) within busiest road sections.

The following measures are either underway or completed:

  • A temporary overflow car park has been installed within the UU Forestry Office grounds (to be used on expected busy periods) to take the pressure off the road network and other areas of parking. Personnel will be provided to ease traffic flow on these periods.
  • A study will be undertaken into re-configuration of the Trentabank car park which is hoped will provide a small number of additional parking spaces
  • Consideration of development of an online pre-booking system for parking spaces

Mountain Biking

  • Implement biking safety consultant recommendation of signage and fencing (particularly at boundary entry points) informing bike users of non-permitted zones and the implications of using ‘wild’ trails
  • Continue to engage with 4 local biking groups/representatives in order to develop a ‘trail association’ which would act as a formal body/club. The intention is to create a range of designated zones (first phase to be installed Summer 2022) for bikers (with the support of biking safety consultant) which will be suitable for a cross section of bikers and also conform to health & safety standards and practices. These zones will also further protect high value habitats/features. UU will also support training of bike club members and installation of signage/fencing at boundary entry points and path crossings for bikes
  • ‘Wild trails’ will continue to be managed by regular inspection and recording
  • Commitment for UU representatives to seek further advice and guidance from industry experts on ‘wild’ trails and mountain biking management
  • Enforced biking safety protocol by UU personnel, ranger & police patrols

Biodiversity

  • Continuation of five year project with Forestry England – a £250k commitment by the company to improve woodland and aquatic habitat, undertaken in partnership with ecological and wildlife specialists to meet the habitat, wildlife and water quality enhancement objectives
  • Veteran tree survey completed over whole forest to secure the survival/health of these legacy trees and the range of species these support. Targeted protection and enhancement works now scheduled
  • Creation of leaky dams along water courses to slow the flow, reduce siltation and enhance water quality and riparian and aquatic habitats. A significant number already implemented in partnership with Cheshire Wildlife Trust & Peak District National Park ‘Slow the Flow Project’ with a further 70 features to be installed in 2022 through additional funding
  • Targeted management work ongoing on broadleaf woodland and open space priority habitats to enhance this resource and for targeted species benefits such as bird and invertebrate species.
  • Annual expanded BTO bird survey undertaken providing a good baseline survey of birds (first time ever coverage has been expanded to assess the entire Forest area). Surveys to be repeated in 2022, to provide for ongoing monitoring of bird populations and impact of habitat improvement works.
  • Focus improvements/programmes on high biodiversity value habitats across the forest including the heronry area, broadleaved woodland and grassland areas – working with our conservation partners and an independent local ecologist. This will provide significant biodiversity improvements.
  • Continue to work in partnership with Cheshire Wildlife Trust (CWT) on various projects including woodland planting
  • Continue engaging with specialists such as Forestry England’s Regional Deer Advisors to provide the right habitat/areas for healthy populations of deer