THE Forest of Dean becoming a Unesco Biosphere reserve is among council leaders’ main ambitions over the next four years.

There are currently 738 selected by The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation in 134 countries across the world.

They are meant to make residents more aware of their environment and its value to the economy and wellbeing.

And the entire Forest district could soon become one ranging from Dymock in the north to Beachley in the south.

Forest of Dean District Council climate emergency cabinet member Chris McFarling (G, St Briavels) said leaders decided the biosphere reserve should replicate the district boundary initially but it could expand across the Severn and into Wales and Herefordshire a decade later.

“We felt the district boundary is where the culture and identity was,” he said. “From Dymock down to Beachley.

“We enjoy that cultural identity although it’s not as easy north of the A40 but by including them, we have Dymock Woods, the daffodil Gold Triangle and some of the old orchards such as Blaisdon.

“We also have the areas at the foot of the Malverns right at the north.

“We are bringing it all together. If it works, in ten years time, when the decade review is set we could expand it across the Severn, into Wales or Herefordshire.”

The council has previously committed itself to exploring this status and employed an officer and set aside some £80,000 in funding they were awarded from the UK shared prosperity fund.

And the current Green Party-led authority will continue to pursue it as part of their council plan.

Councillors voted to approve the 2023-2028 council plan at a meeting on December 14 and among their strategies to preserve nature is to continue to explore the best ways of reconciling the protection of biodiversity with its sustainable use.

And they see Unesco biosphere reserve status as the best way of doing this.

Council leader Mark Topping (G, Lydney West and Aylburton) told the meeting he was delighted to bring the plan to full council which “responds to the climate and nature emergency”.

It aims to mitigate the impact of climate breakdown and the collapse of nature and transform the district into a model of environmental stewardship, thriving economic activity and community resilience, he said.

“It’s our local answer to the worldwide climate and nature emergency. It is unashamedly aspiration and ambitious and can only be realised by working with each other and others beyond the council.

“This is our proposal for the next four years in which we’ve set out our vision for what we want to achieve.

“This is our attempt to meet the needs of the Forest of Dean while taking into account the needs of the Forest’s future generations.”

Some councillors have previously raised concerns about the proposals and fear it would turn the Forest of Dean into something akin to “a climate change-themed Center Parcs”.

Cllr McFarling (G, St Briavels) said anyone who does not want the Forest of Dean designated as a biosphere reserve should state their fears and reasons why publicly so that they can discuss them.

Any final decision whether this is the best way to protect biodiversity and promote sustainable development in the Forest of Dean would need to be taken by a meeting of full council.