A DEARNE eco project will get a share of a multi-million pound funding pot to improve wildlife areas in the local area.
The Dearne Valley Green Heart scheme is one of 12 projects nationwide which have been chosen to create Nature Improvement Areas.
Each project will receive part of a £7.5 million government grant over the next three years.
The money will be used locally to restore the River Don flood plain and to create new woodlands and wetlands across the Dearne.
The dozen winning schemes were selected in a competition which drew 70 bids from across England.
Dearne Valley Green Heart project manager Pete Wall said: “We are delighted and it is a credit to everybody’s hard work that went into the funding bid.
“We are now recognised as one of the best projects in the UK and we will use the money to put the Dearne on the map as a place to visit.”
The news was also welcomed this week by Dearne MP John Healey, who chairs the Dearne Valley Special Board, which is leading the Dearne Valley Eco-vision.
He worked closely with the Dearne Valley Green Heart NIA bid and raised the issue in the House of Commons.
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.”
The government hopes all 12 selected areas will restore wetlands, grasslands and peat bogs, improve rivers, plant trees and make new ponds.
The money will help the groups to carry out improvement work and to link up with other wildlife sites in their region.
Environment Secretary Caroline 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.
“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.”
Paul Wilkinson, head of living landscape for the Wildlife Trusts, added: “We are delighted this competition has demonstrated a real appetite for putting nature back after decades of decline through the large number of applications but 12 nature improvement areas are not enough.
“The concept should be driven forward everywhere across England and given formal recognition through the new planning process, expected next month, and agri-environment grants.”