Derbyshire Dales District Council has been described as "a pioneer beacon authority" as it prepares to drive its innovative biodiversity project into a third year.
In its second year in 2022, as well as continuing to nurture the 15 year one sites, the project has increased biodiversity on larger areas of land owned and maintained by the District Council, including parks, open spaces, roundabouts and churchyards.
There are now 38 sites in total - and botanical surveys this year identified 94 species of plants, ranging from common dandelions and buttercups to four species of orchid.
Back in early 2021, working with parish councils and community groups, the District Council identified 15 pilot sites where verges and public open spaces were cut at the end of February or early March, then scarified to create bare patches to give seeds already in the soil the space and light to germinate. Community groups also sowed seeds themselves. The verges were then left uncut until the end of August.
A meeting of the District Council's Community & Environment Committee meeting last week unanimously noted progress in the current year and approved the next steps going into the final year of the trial project, when 10 more sites will be designated. New site suggestions will also be welcomed from parish and town councils and local residents.
Councillors agreed that community groups and organisations be supported to improve the biodiversity in their areas and to help them inform and educate their local community on the importance of the work.
The Council's Community Development Manager Becky Cummins told the meeting that the purchase of a cut-and-collect flail mower had improved the ability to properly prepare designated areas. She said her team were now working with 16 local groups and a primary school.
She also reported that Derbyshire County Council was undertaking a county-wide review on the maintenance of roadside verges.
Councillor Peter O'Brien said: "This is a really positive initiative by the District Council and it is good that Derbyshire County Council are now joining the party.
"Of course our biodiversity hotspots - or green spots - throughout the district are fine, but their value would be more than doubled if they are linked together. Biodiversity is not just about increasing the range and biodiversity of flowers, it's to do with a whole range of other living organisms, particular insects, but they need to have a connecting network of sites.
"I do hope that when the team negotiate and discuss bringing the County Council on board more firmly that we can use our status as a pioneer beacon authority in this respect by encouraging the County Council to look at verges which link our existing sites together. That will add amazing value to the good work we have already seen."
Councillor Mike Ratcliffe said: "Congratulations. I know from my own ward how successful this has been and it has the full support of the local environmental groups. Long may this sort of initiative continue. This is one more arsenal in Derbyshire's response to climate change and it is making a difference."
Year two project sites are Bakewell Recreation Ground, Northwood Recreation Ground, Morledge/Old Hackney Lane on the boundary of Matlock and Darley Dale, Matlock's Hall Leys Park and Hurst Farm Spider Park, St Giles Church at Starkholmes, Steeple Arch Cemetery at the top of Wirksworth and three sites in Ashbourne at the Cemetery, St Oswald’s Churchyard and Fish Pond Meadow.
The year one projects that continue are in Hathersage's Jaggers Lane and Sheffield Road, Bradwell's Church Lane and The Dale, Wardlow, Hartington's Parson Field car park and the churchyard, Beeley's Brookside, Matlock's Morledge, Station car park and Arc Leisure, land next to the Steeple Arch Cemetery, Wirksworth's Oathill and Summer Lane/Derby Road and Doveridge's Park Crescent.
New additions to the year one list included sites at Taddington, Hackney, Matlock Dale's Artist's Corner and Doveridge.