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Biodiversity Strategy



Woodlands, Trees and Hedgerows


Lowland Meadows and Road verges

Urban Flower Meadows 

Amenity grassland

Invasive Non-Native Species Management

Coastal Floodplain and Grazing Marsh

Intertidal Mudflats

Coastal Saltmarsh

Lowland Raised Bog (Peat Bog)

Arable Field Margins

Urban Green Space, Gardens, Allotments and Cemeteries



Rivers and streams

Priority Habitat description - The majority of rivers across the UK are expected to fall into this category when they are in a 'near-natural' state, canals and ditches are not included. The aim is to keep the naturalness of a river and increase it, where possible, in other parts of the river system.  The river is classified to the top of the banks, surrounding land may form priority habitat in its own right and be integral to the river system and its management but is classified in its own area.  Adjacent ponds will only be included if they were naturally formed by the river (Oxbow lakes) but not if formed artificially or by other processes.  Aquatic, marginal and bankside plant and animal assemblages are an integral part of the river habitat.

Across South Ribble the Council is responsible for the riparian management of sections of the River Ribble, which acts as the northern boundary of the Borough, the River Lostock (Lostock Hall and Leyland), Shaw Brook (through Worden Park and Wade Hall, Leyland) and Bannister Brook (visible at various points through Leyland).  The rivers Yarrow and Douglas also flow through the Borough. 

The Environment Agency have the statutory responsibility to carry out maintenance, improvement or construction work on all main rivers to manage the flood risk.  In South Ribble these are The Ribble, Lostock, Yarrow, Douglas and their main tributaries and Shaw Brook as a tributary of the Lostock.  Other watercourses are maintained by the local flood authority, district council and landowners.

Rivers act as important wildlife corridors allowing species to move across the Borough, attracting aquatic and terrestrial wildlife.  Rivers naturally twist and turn with areas of deposition and erosion along their length.  This is an important natural process and should not be subject to human intervention without careful considerations of the knock-on effects of flooding and habitat loss up and downstream from the work.  Watercourses should be kept free of obstructions that may cause flooding and trap litter and pollutants and therefore be a hazard to wildlife.

While ditches are not included in a priority habitat description, they are a landscape characteristic of the Western Parishes of South Ribble and should be considered in this context.

Most human intervention in our rivers is to control bank erosion and mitigate flood risks.  Shaw Brook in Worden Park was altered historically by the Farington family when the land was part of their estate.  Any future work here should consider the historical as well as the biodiversity and flooding implications. 

Rivers attract people for recreation and the banks should be seen as part of the river habitat.  Damage caused by humans to the riverbanks directly impacts on the quality of the watercourse. 

The Environment Agency undertake water quality checks, but improvements are also evidenced by increased wildlife sightings.   It is not uncommon to see otters in local rivers across South Ribble, a direct response to improving water quality and food availability. 

The main threats to our river systems are -

  • pollution
  • development on riverbanks and floodplains
  • culverting (diverting the main channel into a pipe or culvert to change the flow)
  • riverside footpaths and recreational access - causing disturbance to habitats and species
  • invasive Non-Native Species


Priority Habitat description - permanent and seasonal bodies of water up to 2 hectares in size and of landscape importance and/or high ecological value - supporting ecologically important plants, aquatic invertebrate or amphibian species.

There is a mosaic of ponds across South Ribble.  Many are natural and show up on the historic maps of the Borough, others are man-made, constructed as part of housing developments or conservation projects.  All have an important part to play in the biodiversity of the Borough. 

Ponds support a large range of wildlife from insects and amphibians to birds and aquatic plants.  Some species are wholly dependent on ponds for all or part of their lifecycles.  Natural ponds are best for wildlife, but sympathetically created ones are valuable particularly in urban areas.   Ponds can vary from 1m2 to 2 hectares in size.  Clusters of ponds are more valuable than one large one especially if they are different sizes and at different stages of a lifecycle. 

The area around the pond, known as the margins, is equally important as it provides shelter and hibernation sites for aquatic and terrestrial wildlife.  For this reason, best practice states that a minimum 3-meter-wide strip around each pond is left unmanaged as a buffer zone.   

Whilst there is a long tradition of feeding the ducks in the UK, large wildfowl numbers and excess amounts of bread and seed left in and around the ponds is detrimental to the pond and its wildlife.  Excess food attracts rats, classed as an Invasive Non-Native Species, who's populations explode, which in turn displaces populations of small mammals, causes bankside erosion, spreads disease and upsets the pond ecosystem.  This can be controlled by only feeding the ducks in designated areas and allowing Wildlife Ponds to stay wild.

Pond dipping is a popular educational activity with schools and uniformed groups.  Numbers of groups dipping should be regulated so that it does not cause a detrimental effect to the pond and its wildlife and margins. 

There are breeding populations of Great Crested Newts in several ponds across South Ribble.  These creatures are a European protected species. The animals and their eggs, breeding sites and resting places are protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981, as a Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework and listed as a European Protected Species under Annex IV of the European Habitats Directive.

In order to carry out conservation and educational activities on these ponds a small number of Council Officers have a Great Crested Newt license issued annually by Natural England.  A prerequisite of this license is that ponds containing or suspected to contain Great Crested Newts are surveyed annually and the results reported to Natural England and the local records office.

Management of ponds is important to control the growth of aquatic and marginal vegetation to retain areas of open water that allow light to enter the pond and wind movement across the pond.  Open areas also allow displaying and breeding areas for newts and amphibians.  Trees should not be planted to the south of the pond as this block's sunlight.  Management works should take place in autumn / winter (November to January) - when the amphibian breeding season has ended and before species start to hibernate and cannot be disturbed.  Work to ponds outside this timeframe will need to have a license from Natural England.

Biological materials (plants and animals e.g. frogspawn) should not be transferred between ponds to reduce the risk of transferring invasive species and disease. 

There are a number of larger ponds in South Ribble that are designated as fishing ponds and managed under a formal lease agreement by independent Angling Clubs.  Fishing is only permitted on these designated waters and is controlled by the Angling Club and their bailiffs.  South Ribble Borough Council retains the right to terminate leases and remove the fish stock from a designated pond if circumstances deem this the best course of action.  Fish should not be introduced to any other ponds as they have a severe impact on many aquatic plants and animal species. 

The main threats to our ponds are:

  • pollution
  • eutrophication (Nutrient enrichment from run off)
  • infilling
  • algae blooms
  • invasive pond weeds and plants
  • litter and over feeding of wildfowl
  • fish
  • poor management - removal of all aquatic vegetation and removal or marginal vegetation and mowing pond edges - loss of biodiversity

Bog Gardens

Bog gardens are an excellent habitat created as a stand-alone habitat in a waterlogged area or as an extension to a pond margin or as an alternative use to a failed pond. It is a permanently damp area where moisture loving plants can thrive.  As these plant species are different to those found in a pond it will attract different wildlife. 

It is a safer alternative to a pond in areas where these would not be safe - school grounds for example, but it will still attract frogs and toads, bees, butterflies and damsel and dragonflies. 

Due to the seasonal nature of plant growth in these areas, they do not always look at their best and often look wild and unmanaged.  This needs to be seen as a positive for wildlife and not a failing on maintenance teams.  Wild areas are great for wildlife.

Invasive Non-Native Species Management

River catchments and ponds are particularly vulnerable to invasive species.

Along riverbanks, dense stands of Himalayan balsam (Impatiens gandulifera), Giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) and Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) risk out competing and crowding out native species, changing the ecosystem.  This threatens the appearance of the landscape, can prevent access to riverbanks and may impede the flow of water, therefore exacerbating flood risk. When these invasive species die down in winter, they may leave the riverbanks bare, exposing them to increased soil erosion.  Japanese knotweed and Giant Hogweed are notifiable species that need professional management to control and reduce their growth. 

In ponds INNS include - Water fern (Azolla filiculoides) New Zealand pigmyweed (Crassula helmsii), Floating pennywort (Hydrocotyle ranunculoides), Curly waterweed (Lagarosiphon major), Least duckweed (Lemna minuta), Parrot's feather (Myriophyllum aquaticum) and Broadleaf watermilfoil (Myriophyllum heterophyllum). American skunk-cabbage(Lysichiton americanus) is present on the banks of the Chain Pond at Worden Park.

Animal and bird species can also be classed as INNS such as the Canada goose (Branta canadensis)which breeds prolifically on some of the ponds in South Ribble and the American mink (Mustela vison) which predates upon and outcompetes water voles and otters.

Some, if not all, of these species are present in ponds in South Ribble, introduced from garden ponds in to the wild and now spreading throughout our pond and river systems.


Whenever work is being undertaken in or near any watercourse or pond, stringent biosecurity practices should be adhered too.  This includes cleaning and disinfecting tools, footwear and clothing between ponds to stop the spread of invasive species and disease. 


Woodlands, Trees and Hedgerows

South Ribble is a Borough rich in trees and hedgerows which are an important visual, wildlife and recreational resource.  Many of these are on Council owned land and their management is covered by the South Ribble Borough Council Tree Policy.  This section does not override anything written in this policy which states in summary that - trees will only be removedwhen it is in accordance with good arboricultural practice, or as part of a management plan for the area and will look to increase its tree stock whenever possible by replanting on a two for one basis (two trees planted for every one felled).

Woodlands and Individual Trees

Woodlands and their associated ground flora are valuable as they support invertebrates, birds and mammals.  Deadwood is vital for invertebrates, fungi, ferns and lichens.

The Big Tree Plant project has planted 110,000 trees across the Borough in three years, one for every resident of the Borough.  It aims to improve air quality and contribute to the Council's commitment to be carbon neutral by 2030.  The Council does not own enough land to make this possible, so residents, schools and landowners were all invited to pledge space for trees.

Fundamental principles have been followed as part of this planting project and should be considered for all tree planting going forward beyond this scheme including,

  • where new planting is to be undertaken it should be of locally occurring native species only, unless in a formal more ornamental setting such as the arboretum on Worden Park. 
  • new woodlands should are not be planted at the expense of other important habitats and care should beis taken to choose sites that add to the diversity of the Borough rather than detracting from it. 
  • where feasible Ideally new planting will shall link together existing woodland, creating corridors that allow the natural spread of plants and animals
  • individual trees and small copses also have worth for their conservation and amenity value and should be protected from mismanagement and loss

Management is vital in sustaining a healthy woodland in a favourable condition for recreation and wildlife.  A healthy woodland has a diverse age structure in its tree population with mature established trees and new natural regeneration.  Invasive non-native species and dominant ground cover, such as bramble, should be controlled to allow the growth of ground flora and new self-seeding trees.  With light reaching the woodland floor, flower species like bluebell and wood anemone, will thrive.

Deadwood plays a key role in woodland ecosystems, as it supports specialist saproxylic species that depend on decaying wood, such as invertebrates, mammals and cavity nesting birds.  It has particular value along woodland edges when it is mixed with shrubby trees and taller plants and wildflowers. 

Standing deadwood differs from fallen deadwood as it is warmer, and rots slower providing another habitat and should be retained in situ wherever possible. 

Lowland Mixed and Deciduous Woodland (including ancient woodland)

Priority habitat description - includes woodland growing in a full range of soil conditions and encompasses most semi-natural woodland in England.  Many are ancient woodlands.  They tend to be less than 20ha, often with evidence of past coppicing.  There is a large variety of locally native species present in the canopy and ground layer.

Wood Pasture and Parkland

The parkland landscapes of Worden and Hurst Grange Parks are a priority habitat (Wood Pasture and Parkland).  Here native ancient and veteran trees dominate an open designed landscape dating from the 19th century or later.  The Cedar of Lebanon in the formal gardens at Worden Park also falls into this category as nationally they are rare and under threat.  The sweet chestnut at the rear of the formal gardens on Worden Park is also notable as the oldest tree on the Park. 

Traditional Orchards

Priority habitat description - predominated by domestic fruit and nut species (apple, plum, pear, damson, cherry, walnut and hazel) planted in permanent grassland and managed in a low intensity way, without pesticides and fertilizers and frequent mowing (hay crop or grazing). Trees spaced 3m plus apart.  Young trees and newly planted orchards are included in this definition.  A minimum of 5 trees with crown edges less than 20m apart. 

Remnants of an old orchard are visible at Paradise Park, Leyland.  New orchards have been planted at Worden Park and Paradise Park.  Several schools have also planted small orchards as part of the 110,000-tree project.


Priority habitat description - any boundary line of trees or shrubs over 20m long and less than 5m wide.  It includes all banks, walls, ditches or trees within 2m of the center of the hedge plus herbaceous vegetation within 2m of the hedge

Hedgerows are excellent wildlife corridors allowing mammals, birds and invertebrates to live in and move around our Borough.  Vegetation at the hedge bottom allows extra cover for wildlife and increases the species present around the hedge increasing its biological value. 

Large ancient hedgerows made of native trees and shrubs are the most valuable for wildlife, due to the diversity of species present.  Newly planted hedges can be valuable too if they are species rich. Gapping up hedgerows, by planting up the spaces left as trees die, is very valuable as it links up existing and provides new habitat.   

Hedgerows are protected under the Hedgerow Regulations Act 1997 and permission for removal is required prior to any work.

Hedgerow management is important in maintaining a hedge.  The tradition management method is to lay the hedge (cutting partway through the trunk at the base and leaning it over at a 45-degree angle), and this is still practiced across the Borough.  Cutting and flailing are also practiced but mean that new growth comes from the top of the hedge rather than the base.  All methods reduce cover in the short term and eliminates some of the flora, so should be planned carefully.  With all methods timing is crucial and it should be carried out while the hedge is dormant.  Work on hedgerows during the bird breeding season should only be carried out if the hedge is causing an obstruction to access or traffic sight line issues.    

Invasive Non-Native Species Management

In woodlands INNS include - Rhododendron (Rhododendron ponticum),Non-native bluebells, the Spainsh bluebells and all hybrids with our native bluebell  (Hyacinthoides non-scripta x hispanica = H. x massartiana),Yellow archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon subsp. Argentatum), Turkey Oak (Quercus cerris),Evergreen oak (Quercus ilex),  Cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus),European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) and Eastern grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis).

Ash dieback (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus) is a fungus that originated in Asia and was introduced to Europe around 30 years ago.   It has decimated populations of European ash (Fraxinus excelsior) as there they have no natural defence against it.  It is expected that Ash dieback will kill around 80% of ash trees.  This has already started in South Ribble threatening the look of our landscape and the species that depend on our ash trees.  It is being monitored and trees removed as they become unsafe.  There is no know way of stopping the spread of the fungus.  It is hoped that given time (50 years plus) our ash trees will start to develop resistance to the disease. 

The main threats to our woodlands, trees and hedgerows are:

  • ash dieback
  • INNS
  • poor management
  • removal of all deadwood
  • dominant species left to grow unchecked
  • spraying of hedge bases



Lowland Meadows and Road verges

Priority habitat description - road side verges, unimproved neutral grassland taken as a hay crop and including inundated grasslands, water meadows and wet meadows.  These are often localised, fragmented and small in size.

Hurst Grange Park, Penwortham, is the largest expanse of unimproved neutral grassland in the Borough and is designated as a Biological Heritage Site.  It supports good populations of Southern marsh orchid (Dactylorhiza praetermissa) and Common spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza fuschii) and their hybrids.  Other areas managed as hay meadows, ungrazed in spring and summer with an annual cut and collect by a contractor are Worden Park, Paradise Park, Priory Park and Priory Meadow.   

Roadside verges are often overlooked for their wildlife value, but well managed verges create vital links across the borough as well as being a biodiversity resource in their own right.   In South Ribble most roadside verges are cut on contract for Lancashire County Council and any changes will have to be agreed with them as landowner. 

All areas of naturally occurring wildflower meadows and wild roadside verges are vulnerable to changes in management, development, neglect and disturbance. They provide an ideal habitat for small mammals and the prey species that predate on them. 

Opportunities to create new perennial natural meadows are limited as they require poor quality soils or brownfield sites.  It is almost impossible to establish a successful meadow on good quality soils as richer soils lead to vigorous grass growth which outcompetes wildflowers.

Lack of, or poor management can mean that a species rich meadow soon becomes a rank grassland, dominated by grasses and other competitive species like dock and thistle.  Pesticides and herbicides reduce plant diversity and therefore numbers of pollinating insects.  Meadows require a well-planned mowing regime to ensure that seeds, stems, and nectar are available to wildlife throughout the year.  Cutting should take place after the wildflowers have set seed and arisings removed after a few days, allowing the seed to drop, but limiting the release of nutrients into the soil.  Cutting too early will remove resources for pollinators across the summer months.  Parcels of rank, tussocky grass left over winter will provide refuge for overwintering invertebrates and areas should be rotated annually to avoid a buildup of thatch and an increase in nutrient levels.  Any seed heads left will feed seed eating birds like goldfinch and linnet. 

Sympathetic repair of any damage to the meadows can to be undertaken with an appropriate seed mix apart from where the meadows contain populations of orchids.  Seed mixes should include yellow rattle (Rhinanthus minor) which out competes some of the grasses allowing wildflowers to establish more easily.  Orchids have a symbiotic relationship with a fungus in the soil and cannot grow if the fungus is not present.  This means that they cannot be transplanted and suffer if new soil is brought in. 

Urban Flower Meadows

These are the meadows that are created each spring on areas of land owned by South Ribble.  They use modern annual non-native amenity seed mixes which contain exotic annuals and are labour and cost intensive as the area must be cut, sprayed, rotovated, sown with seed and then cut down at the end of the season.  They do however look very nice and provide a short-term source of nectar for our pollinators.  They should not be created in areas where there is any chance of the seeds spreading into wild areas of the Borough. 

Amenity grassland

This refers to all areas of mown grass such as sports pitches and parks.  It is of some use for foraging birds, such as starlings and blackbirds looking for worms, but its main use is for recreation.  If mown in a way where species such as daisy, clover and dandelion are allowed to flower, it can be useful for pollinators.

Adjusting our maintenance regimes to include different sward heights by differential mowing around the boundaries, would increase biodiversity and allow us an opportunity to increase the natural value of our urban areas. 

The threats to our grasslands are

  • mismanagement
  • development
  • tree planting
  • disturbance
  • difficulties in creating new natural meadows
  • pesticide use
  • seed from non-native (urban meadows) spreading in to the wild

Invasive Non-Native Species Management

Whilst there are currently no INNS occurring in South Ribble's grasslands it should still be monitored.  INNS such as Himalayan balsam and Japanese knotweed can easily encroach or be introduced from other areas. 

Coastal Floodplain and Grazing Marsh

Priority habitat description - periodically inundated pasture or meadow with ditches containing standing brackish or fresh water.  Grazed or hay or silage crops.

This is limited to the Ribble Estuary and is not under the ownership or management of South Ribble Borough Council but still forms an important habitat within our Borough.

Intertidal Mudflats

Priority habitat description - sedimentary intertidal habitats created by silt and clay deposition in low energy coastal environments, particularly estuaries

Mudflats in the Ribble estuary are highly productive areas that support large numbers of birds and fish.  The estuary supports internationally important numbers of migrating and over wintering wildfowl and is a good nursery area for flatfish.  They are also important carbon sinks

Coastal Saltmarsh

Priority habitat description -The upper vegetated section of intertidal mudflats, from the lower limit of saltmarsh vegetation to a point one meter above the highest tide mark. 

Saltmarsh in the Ribble estuary are important areas for wading birds and wildfowl.  They act as a high tide refuge for birds feeding on the mudflats, and as feeding and breeding site for other bird species. 

Brackish areas (where fresh water from streams and ditches mix with salty sea water) are important for invertebrates. 

Lowland Raised Bog (Peat Bog)

Priority habitat description - Peatland ecosystem which normally develop on river floodplains and in topographical depressions.  The waterlogging means that plant material decomposes at a slow rate, which leads to an accumulation of peat. 

There is one area of Lowland Raised Bog in South Ribble that is of a quality to be protected but is degrading due to surrounding drainage.  Other areas across the western parishes are now so fragmented that they are too small to qualify for a designation.  None of this land is in Council ownership.

In order to stop carbon entering the atmosphere from our peat bogs and start actively working to store and ideally sequester carbon in peat bogs in the Borough there is a need to manage sites with nature in mind.


Arable Field Margins

Priority habitat description - herbaceous strips or blocks around arable fields that are managed specifically to provide benefits for wildlife.  

Large areas of the Borough are used for farming and this landscape is characteristic of the eastern and western parishes.   Whilst under private ownership and management these fields and their margins provide an important habitat within our Borough. 


Urban Green Space, Gardens, Allotments and Cemeteries

These urban areas can be a haven for wildlife, creating a mosaic of different habitats that link urban areas to the countryside. 

Formal planting in town centers and on Worden Park is aesthetically pleasing and provides a short-term source of nectar for many insects which in turn provide food for birds and bats.

Residents' gardens and allotments are an important part of South Ribble's biodiversity.  They provide important food sources of nectar and berries supporting our wildlife throughout the year.  Garden ponds, trees, hedges, compost heaps and flower beds all support a diverse range of species and are often essential for their survival.  Biodiversity gains are best where gardens adjoin each other, where mature trees are retained, and ponds created.  These gardens create a network of green corridors and patches which helps to facilitate the movement of species between areas. 

Leaving space for nature in a garden means cutting hedges outside of bird breeding season, having wildlife ponds rather than fishponds, leaving wild areas with piles of leaves and sticks/logs and building a compost heap.  Avoiding the use of pesticides and slug pellets wherever possible will also help wildlife.  Compost heaps provide nesting sites for hedgehog and grass snake, garden ponds are refuges and breeding areas for frogs, toads and newts, and flowering plants and shrubs are a food source for bees and butterflies and other insects.

The threats to our urban greenspaces are

  • development
  • hard landscaping of gardens
  • taming the wild
  • over manicured gardens

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