Boost for restoring wildlife habitats in region

millions of pounds will be spent restoring three natural habitats in the region under a Government plan unveiled yesterday to create a dozen large-scale nature reserves nationwide.

The Dearne Valley, the Humberhead Levels and Dark Peak area of the Peak District will all benefit under the £7.5m scheme, announced by environment secretary Caroline Spelman.

Cash will be spent restoring the River Don’s floodplain in the Dearne Valley between Barnsley and Rotherham, while 1,500 hectares of wildlife habitat will be restored at the Humberhead Levels.

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The area, on the borders of Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire, is mainly wetland, lowland and peat habitat and supports a wide variety of rare plant and animal life.

The Dark Peak project will include moorland and woodland and the Government money will help revive habitats such as upland heathland and create 210 hectares of native woodland.

More than 70 groups representing different areas of England applied for funding under the Nature Improvement Area scheme, with the nine other winning projects coming from areas such as Morecambe Bay and Dorset.

Ms Spelman said: “Each of these projects has something different to offer - from the urban areas of Birmingham and the Black Country to the rivers and woods of North Devon; from marshes, coalfields and wetlands to woodland and arable chalkland and grassland.

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“The exciting wildlife projects are the result of different organisations all working together with a common purpose - to safeguard our wildlife for generations to come.”

Wentworth and Dearne MP John Healey is the chairman of the Dearne Valley Eco Vision project, which aims to make the area a trailblazer for green living.

Responding to the funding announcement Mr Healey said: “This is national recognition that we have a special nature area in the Dearne, one that is more exceptional because of our heavy industrial heritage.

“We’ve come a long way already and this will help fulfil the eco-vision, build on the proven track record of the RSPB and others and make the green heart of the Dearne even greener.

“It is another piece in the long-term plan to make the Dearne a leading eco-area.”