Nesscliffe Country Park and Llanymynech Heritage Area are both set to become nature reserves after plans were approved by councillors.

At a meeting on Monday, Shropshire Council’s cabinet approved the designations of Nesscliffe Country Park, Llanymynech Heritage Area, Lyth Hill and Poles Coppice, near Pontesbury, as Local Nature Reserves.

It is hoped the status, which is already afforded to more than 40 sites across the county, will add more weight to funding bids and offer extra protection from future development.

The four sites are all owned by Shropshire Council and cover almost 120 hectares of countryside between them.

Councillor Lezley Picton, portfolio holder for leisure, said: “The benefits of designating the parks are many and varied, but perhaps some of the most important benefits were highlighted over the past few months when access to the outdoors became so important to us.

“There is no doubt the pandemic has reinforced how vital green space is to our daily lives and visitor numbers to our sites across the county have rocketed, with Severn Valley Country Park and The Mere at Ellesmere seeing double the visitor numbers of 2019.

“Having LNR status will help us raise awareness of the facilities both locally and further afield, it can strengthen external funding bids, it can help to safeguard local ecosystem services such as reducing carbon in the atmosphere or absorbing surface water. And designation of sites as LNRs can also offer a protection within the planning system from further development.

“By undertaking this designation it’s also a statement of intent that this council values its parks and will continue to look after them accordingly.”

Councillor Dean Carroll, portfolio holder for climate change, said he “enthusiastically and wholeheartedly” supported the proposals, which were agreed unanimously by cabinet members.

Councillor Carroll said: “As we know it’s not only a climate emergency we are in but also an ecological emergency, and protecting biodiversity is extremely important.”

But the report to cabinet said issues had got in the way of progressing plans to designate four other sites, prompting John Box, honorary conservation adviser for Shropshire Wildlife Trust, to submit a public question asking when these might come to fruition.

He said: “These new designations will add to the suite of excellent LNRs already designated in Shropshire.

“LNRs are very important places for both people and wildlife and allow local residents to get involved with wildlife at first hand.

“The paper on LNRs for cabinet deals with the situation in respect of a further four sites which could be proposed as LNRs in the future – Severn Valley Country Park and Eardington Quarry where completed management plans ae awaited before designation can be pursued, and Monkmoor and Copthorne Park which are listed for transfer to Shrewsbury Town Council.

“What indicative timescales are envisaged for these four potential LNRs?”

In response, Councillor Picton said: “We are looking to bring further areas into LNR status in 2021/22.”