BCP Council has agreed to become a member of the group working to create a nature park along a 15-mile stretch of the Stour Valley.

Its cabinet agreed unanimously on Wednesday to become a partner of the Stour Valley Park Partnership which aims to protect and enhance the area.

Environment portfolio holder, councillor Mark Anderson, said the move would benefit the ecology of the area but also improve people’s health and help preserve historic sites.

The partnership began in 2015 following work within the former Bournemouth council’s conservation department.

Two years later the council signed up to become a partner of the organisation – a move that was followed by Poole council a year later.

Christchurch council did not join prior to its abolition in 2019.

The partnership is working to have the Stour Valley, stretching from Hengistbury Head to Kingston Lacy, recognised as a park.

No formal legislation or designation will be needed and instead it will just be referenced in policy documents, the partnership said.

The aim is for it to improve the area environmentally but also economically be increasing tourism while also using it to help facilitate development elsewhere in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole.

And on Wednesday, BCP Council’s cabinet unanimously agreed to become a partner organisation, having not done so since its formation in 2019.

Speaking at the meeting, cabinet member for the environment, councillor Mark Anderson, said the area was “already seeing the benefits” from the work being done.

And a report by Michael Rowland, the council’s conservation lead, said the park would help meet all the council’s priorities.

“Due to the nature of this extensive landscape scale initiative it will be able to contribute, at scale, to key objectives such as, mitigating against climate change, flood alleviation, enhancing biodiversity, promoting sustainable management of resources, maximising access to quality natural environments and promoting happy active and healthy lifestyles,” his report says.

Councillor Mohan Iyengar said promoting the area as a nature park would also provide both short-term and longer term benefits following the pandemic.

“It's a great encourager to everyone to be outdoors and, after the year or year-and-a-half that we just had it will help get everyone's fitness back,” he said.

A “detailed landscape masterplan” outlining the work of the partnership and its progress in creating the park is due to be produced by spring next year.