ENVIRONMENTALISTS have moved a step closer to securing extra protection for an award-winning York nature park.

Natural England has confirmed Rawcliffe Meadows, as well as Clifton Ings, has been notified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), a status which would safeguard the land for the future and also prevent it being harmed by nearby developments while potentially unlocking new funding.

A final decision on whether the land is formally designated as an SSSI will be taken next year, with objectors having until the end of January to make representations.

The site’s grassland is considered to be nationally important because of the species living there, and it is also a vital habitat for the endangered tansy beetle.

Rawcliffe Meadows is owned by the Environment Agency, leased to cycle track operator Sustrans and managed by the Friends of Rawcliffe Meadows, a voluntary group which is part of the York Natural Environment Trust (YNET). The ownership of Clifton Ings is in the hands of several different parties.

Dr Mick Phythian of YNET, which marks its 25th anniversary this year, said the notification for the 25-acre nature reserve on the Clifton floodplain had come after 23 years of work by the Friends. During this time the area has won wildlife accolades, become popular with walkers, cyclists, joggers and families, and its Copse Meadow has recently been restored.

He said: “We are delighted with the notification, which means Natural England believe the site is of the quality required to be an SSSI, and opens it up to a challenge or a review of the issues from other parties.

“The land had been poorly managed and it has taken many years to get it to where it is now.

“Being designated as an SSSI would mean many more things have to be considered about the management of the site, it is protected from future development, and it also allows more grant aid opportunities.”

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