The congratulations came from Green Party councillor Neil Buttle as members of the District Council's Community & Environment Committee unanimously supported a report on the project's progress.
View the debate again on our YouTube channel below:
In October last year the same committee recognised the need to redress the dramatic loss of wildflower meadows and continued loss of plant species from roadside verges and insect populations due to changes in management.
Working with parish councils and community groups, the District Council initially identified 12 pilot sites - a number that increased to 15 - 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 - and during the summer more than 55 different flowering plants were identified, ranging from common dandelions and buttercups to four species of orchid.
Ash Watts, the council's Director of Community & Environmental Services, told this week's meeting:
"It has been a successful year. A lot of work has gone into this from the project team but also I'd like to personally thank the member working group who support the project because there's absolutely added value being brought to the discussion.
"We want to focus on education about biodiversity. Signs have been installed at each of the sites to explain what is happening. Some cynics might see this is as a cost-cutting exercise, but it absolutely is not."Council Leader Councillor Garry Purdy said:
"This is the start. I was on a Rural Services Network conference the other day when a representative from way up north near the Scottish borders had a go at the government about the lack of biodiversity and I was proud to step up and say we are taking a lead on this as a district council. You can do it on your own - you don't have to wait for government to do it."Councillor Mike Ratcliffe told the meeting:
"I have had to explain to some in my ward that the re-wilding and cutting back on mowing is not cost saving but is a proactive way forward. There are residents who think it's neglect."
Councillor Matthew Buckler said Derbyshire Dales was leading the way locally.
"The other local authorities within the county are looking to us because we're playing a leadership role," he said.
Councillor Martin Burfoot added:
"This is an excellent initiative. It needs to grow and inspire the younger generation in particular to take a closer interest in their future environment for which they will have responsibility as guardians in future decades.
"My generation has perhaps grown too used to mown verges, golf course-like, public open space and what I would call landscape deserts around housing estates. Many people unfortunately still seem to prefer that and we get lobbied constantly by residents who want to see mown verges and everything kept spick and span as they would say - basically what they have become accustomed to."Ash Watts conceded it was true some villages still wanted "a manicured look rather than re-wilding", but said working with other local councils and community groups helped to raise awareness. Education would also play a big part in explaining the aims of the biodiversity project. He added:
"We've been selected by a conversation writer who is currently writing a book on 11 different areas within the UK that are doing biodiversity restoration and the Derbyshire Dales has been selected as one of those 11. As a council this is a project we should be really proud of."In year one the pilot sites were two areas in Hathersage, two in Bradwell, two in Hartington three in Matlock, two in Wirksworth, plus sites in Wardlow, Beeley, Cromford and Doveridge.
In the second year of the project the work on increasing biodiversity on larger areas of land on the District Council's parks and open spaces will include Bakewell Recreation Ground, Northwood Recreation Ground, Morledge/Old Hackney Lane in Darley Dale, Matlock's Hall Leys Park, Spider Park on Matlock's Hurst Farm, St Giles Church in Starkholmes, Steeple Arch Cemetery and three areas of Ashbourne - the cemetery, St Oswald’s Churchyard and Fish Pond Meadow.
In the current year the District Council's Clean and Green team in Ashbourne also sowed a wildflower seed mix on one of the roundabouts on the A52. This was a successful initiative and similar work will now take place on another roundabout in Ashbourne and two more in Matlock and Hassop.
View the full report [PDF]