South Darley Parish Council has agreed a new bio-diversity policy – see policies page. The duty of care that public authorities have regarding bio-diversity has been reinforced under the Environment Act and all Parish Councils have been asked to complete their first consideration of what action to take for bio-diversity.

Bio-diversity is the collective term for the variety and abundance of forms of life found in an area, including animals, plants, fungi & micro-organisms such as bacteria. Each of these species & organisms work together in eco-systems to maintain balance & support life. Thriving bio-diversity and sustainable ecosystems are essential for our survival and wellbeing but bio-diversity losses are unprecedented.

Britain is classified as one of the world’s most nature-depleted countries and The State of Nature report for 2023 found that the UK’s wildlife is continuing to decline.

As a council we already attempt to do what we can to protect and enhance our environment. Although we have no vote on planning applications, we do voice our objections or support as we deem appropriate. So, unless there are exceptional circumstances, we do not support development on green field sites. Under new rules, all development will need to show a 10% net gain in bio-diversity so this is something we will also need to consider in the future.

We have lent our voice to the calls to Derbyshire Dales District Council (DDDC) to look for alternatives to spraying kerbs and roadsides with Glysophate. There have been attempts by the European Union and our government to ban Glysophate but the EU has just voted to extend its use for another 10 years. Glysophate destroys the micro-organisms in healthy soil, washes into water systems and is harmful to insects, birds and humans. Our roadsides are currently being sprayed twice a year with this chemical.

To their credit, DDDC hac reduced its use of Glysophate significantly on verges, parks and graveyards. They have also reduced the number of times that our kerbs and roadside edges are sprayed. As with many councils, they have been trialling alternatives including the use of mechanical weed pulling and hot foam but unfortunately the roads continue to be sprayed with Glysophate at present. The Parish Council will continue to monitor the situation and exert pressure where we can.

The only bit of land owned by the Parish Council is the plantation next to the school. We have regular tree inspections and manage the site for safety and future regeneration. We are hoping to plant several trees in the next few months to replace the ones we’ve lost as a result of disease in the last few years.

We’ve given the school permission to use the plantation for their Forest School activities. It’s a fantastic resource right next to the school where the children can enjoy their activities in nature.

As a council we are keen to support the Derbyshire County Council ‘million trees’ campaign. DCC are encouraging landowners, businesses and gardeners to plant as many trees as they are able and to log them on a map to see if they can achieve one million by 2030. As there is very little council land available for planting, we are looking to encourage landowners in our community. We are asking landowners to allow us to plant a tree for the future. We urgently need to replace the trees that we are losing to disease and development, not only to retain our beautiful environment but also to do our bit to tackle climate change. Trees will become ever more important as our climate warms. They will provide shelter for livestock, improve soil health, enhance carbon sequestration and improve bio-diversity. We have had a couple of offers from landowners to plant a tree for the future, but we are looking for more to make the project viable.

If all goes to plan, the parish may be gifted a small parcel of land in the near future. If there is interest in the community it would be good to try and manage it as an environmental project, maybe a wildlife meadow, a wildlife pond, a community orchard or a small copse. Maybe the community pond and orchard in Winster could provide inspiration.

As you will be aware, Ecobat, a huge lead smelter, is situated in our small community. The Parish Council hosts a liaison group with Ecobat. The group has representatives from a number of local parish councils and Derbyshire Dales District wards as well as from Derbyshire County Council and the Environment Agency. The liaison meeting exists to share plans and discuss any issues which arise from the operation of the site and its effect on the environment and local people living or working nearby.

Essentially the Parish Council works with Ecobat on two broad dimensions:

  • limiting and reducing the impact of this large lead smelter on the environment and thus on biodiversity, and
  • working proactively in relation to the woodland to increase biodiversity.

The Parish Council is supportive of Ecobat’s Woodland Management Plan which states:

“The aim is to convert the woodland from rows of planted trees, all the same age and type, into something that resembles a natural English woodland, high in biodiversity and pleasant to walk through.  At the same time the aim is to maintain the important screening function around the works during the restructuring process.”

In our bio-diversity policy, moving forward we are committing to

  • Conserving and promoting the bio-diversity of the land we manage when working alone and with other organisations.
  • Raising awareness of bio-diversity issues within the local community.
  • Involving the community in promoting bio-diversity through, for example tree planting and wilding areas.

We hope to support the community in doing so much more. People often say that we don’t need to worry about our roadside verges, hedgerows and gardens as we are surrounded by so much countryside here in South Darley. It is true that we live in a lovely rural area but farmland is not necessarily as bio-diverse as it may appear.  That is why we need to do what we can where we can on any land that is available.

The DCC local recovery plan could be a useful tool for councils in the future. It’s a huge project that is mapping the natural resources and bio-diversity of the county. Once this is complete, DCC hope to work with and encourage farmers and landowners of the most appropriate way to improve bio-diversity in their area.

There are positive examples, within the Peak District of rural areas taking positive action e.g. White Peak Farmers are a group, in the Southwest corner of the Peak District that has united with the aim of working together to deliver better environmental outcomes in the White Peak. They have received grants to help them achieve their high ambitions and have encouraged local communities and children to get involved. Having walked through that landscape the main thing that stands out is the hedgerows that have been allowed to grow a bit wilder. Hedgerows are extremely important to our wildlife. They offer warmth, protection and a place to nest for a wide range of species: butterflies, bats, birds, hedgehogs, and dormice. A lot of native hedgerow shrubs only flower and fruit on the previous year’s woody growth. With this in mind, we should aim to cut hedges no more than every other year to help some species like hawthorn flower and fruit.

At Haddon Hall you may have noticed that the hedgerows are being restored and cut less frequently, there is a lot of tree planting going on. Haddon Hall is the oldest, largest rewilding project in the Peak District. The 500 acres of ancient wood pasture, water meadows and riverbank that surround Haddon Hall have been managed organically since 2009.

As you drive around the Derbyshire Dales (and Amber Valley is another good example) you will have noticed that some grass verges are not being cut as frequently. They are part of a pilot project to try and improve biodiversity. The roadside verges can be the only remnants of the old meadows as they travel through large areas of intensively managed agricultural land. The ancient seed bank is there but the short mowing regime is preventing those plants from flourishing.

Hopefully we can gain inspiration from some of these projects and look to working with the community to create our own initiatives in the future and do our bit to help improve biodiversity in our little corner of the world.