Derby City Council has been praised for backing what would be the first large-scale urban rewilding project in the UK.
Last month, the city council approved proposals brought forward by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust to rewild Allestree Park.
It will now work with the trust and the University of Derby on the project, with a public consultation set to take place to develop the plans, which would see nature reclaim the former golf course.
Councillor Jerry Pearce, the city council’s cabinet member for Streetpride and Public Spaces, said: “This is a key moment for Derby to be playing its part in tackling the effects of climate change. The next stage will be to consult with our communities so everyone can have their say in how we take these plans forward.
Dr Jo Smith, chief executive of Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, said: “We are delighted that Derby City Council is leading the way in implementing solutions to the climate and nature crisis at such a significant time for our planet.
Rewilding Allestree Park could bring the city wide-ranging benefits.
Nature’s recovery in Derby would be supported by providing more space for wildlife-rich habitats and potential species reintroductions. It would also help the city council meet its carbon reduction targets by increasing Derby’s carbon storage capacity.
Rewilding would also provide more opportunities for residents to improve their wellbeing by connecting with nature-rich greenspace.
Subject to the proposed consultation, steps to rewild Allestree Park could include the creation of new habitats such as woodlands, grasslands, wetland and scrubland, the creation of community orchards and community growing and looking at reintroducing key species, such as water vole and harvest mouse.
Dr Smith added: “This initiative will create one of the largest urban rewilding sites in the UK and enable nature to do what it does best – lock up carbon, slow the flow of water, improve air quality and provide an amazing wild place where both people and wildlife can thrive.
“This is a huge moment for Derby and one we’re very proud to be a part of.
Professor Alastair Driver, director at Rewilding Britain, said: “We are very excited that Derby City Council has taken the plunge to be the first local authority in England to embark on a major urban rewilding project in the ideal location at Allestree Park.
“They are bold pioneers who we confidently predict will inspire many others to follow suit at a critical time for our natural world.”