A MAJOR water park has been given greater protection by Natural England.

Cotswold Water Park, which reaches into West Oxfordshire, as well as Gloucestershire and Wiltshire, has been given Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) status.

All 117 lakes at the park, which has gained national importance for its bird and plant populations, have been given the SSSI status.

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Paul Hazel, chairman of the Cotswold Water Park Trust, said: “The trust has worked for many years with its volunteers, land and lake owners, and commercial operators, to try and protect and enhance the area’s wildlife and habitats.

“The trust is pleased, therefore, that Natural England has now formally recognised the significance of the Cotswold Water Park’s biodiversity, and in particular its importance to breeding and wintering birds.

“It is crucial that the Cotswold Water Park moves forward as a balanced and sustainable example of how wildlife and people can successfully coexist, and that the public can continue to enjoy the benefits of living in, working in, or visiting this unique area.”

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Marian Spain, chief executive of Natural England, added: “Places like this are ever more important in bringing people and nature together, and giving us that contact with wildlife that’s so vital for our health and wellbeing.

“This extended designation is a testament to the efforts of the many bodies and individuals who have been involved in creating and managing the water park over many years, and living proof that some of our most important species can thrive hand in hand with homes, business and recreational activities.”

Breeding birds in the park include little egrets, little ringed plovers and nightingales.

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