The European Diploma of Protected Areas has been awarded for the 45th year to the Peak District National Park, one of only five areas in the UK to hold the accolade.
The Council of Europe has renewed the diploma for tenyears in recognition of continuing conservation work in the national park to protect:
• rare wildlife such as water voles, birds of prey, white-clawed crayfish
• distinctive landscapes such as upland bogs, limestone dales and heathland
• heritage sites such as prehistoric remains, lead-rakes, stone circles, historic parklands and unique features such as the 19th-century Calver Weir
• the distinctive character of traditional villages, towns and historic houses, with 109 conservation areas and 2,900 listed buildings
• vitality of local communities and businesses, through advice, grants and planning policies.
Jane Chapman, head of environment and economy at the Peak District National Park Authority, said: “I’m delighted this prestigious diploma has been renewed for ten years – it’s a recognition of the sterling work being done by hundreds of people across the national park.
“That includes everyone from our major partners such as landowners and environmental organisations, to farmers who care for our landscapes, gardeners who create wildlife habitats, and householders, community groups, churches and parishes who look after historic properties.
“All of them are vital to the national park’s status as a protected area, and together we are now developing the new National Park Management Plan for 2012-2017, which will strengthen and build on what has already been achieved.”
One major achievement since 2003 is the proportion of Sites of Special Scientific Interest in favourable or recovering condition, which has increased from just 28 per cent in 2003 to 98 per cent now (nearly 50,000 hectares).
Even further improvements should result from the next Peak District Biodiversity Action Plan (2011-2020), to be officially launched in September, which will encourage everyone involved in land management to widen and link up wildlife habitats.
In addition to conservation, the European diploma recognises educational and socio-economic work throughout the national park, which means everything from school field-trips, guided walks and visitor centres to support for local businesses and communities.
Only four other areas in the UK have the diploma – Minsmere Nature Reserve in Suffolk, Purbeck Heritage Coast in Dorset, Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve and Fair Isle National Scenic Area, both in Scotland. Seventy areas across 26 European countries have the sought-after accolade.