A pioneering scheme to create nature-rich spaces for communities across Cornwall has been named the best biodiversity project in the country in a prestigious competition.

The Green Infrastructure for Growth programme led by Cornwall Council and Cormac Solutions Ltd was the overall winner at the recent BIG Biodiversity Challenge annual awards hosted by CIRIA, the construction industry research and information association.

Rob Nolan, Cornwall Council’s cabinet portfolio holder for the environment and public protection, said: “We are delighted the Green Infrastructure for Growth project has been recognised nationally as leading the way in helping transform land in urban areas to make them better places for people and for wildlife.

“So many of our residents came out and got involved in transforming these beautiful new green spaces and are now benefitting from increased opportunities to be out in nature. Encouraging people to get out into nature more and promoting biodiversity are key ways we want to help everyone make choices that lead to natural climate solutions as part of our climate change action plan.”

The three-year project was praised for leading the way for environmental net gain and working with local communities to rethink green spaces.

It has brought 30 wildlife and pollinator-friendly areas to seven Cornish towns across 40 hectares - an area equivalent to 40 rugby pitches.

Residents took part in activities to improve these enriched green spaces including planting wildflower meadows, trees, orchards, pollinator friendly flower beds, setting up bug hotels and creating ponds.

After declaring a climate emergency earlier this year, this programme forms a key element of Cornwall Council’s climate change action plan for promoting biodiversity, capturing carbon and encouraging people to get out into nature more.

Green Infrastructure for Growth was awarded the prize for going above and beyond what is expected, extensive benefit to biodiversity and the fact judges viewed it as being highly replicable.

It also won the Project of the Year award in the medium/large scale category and was highly commended for the Biodiversity Legacy award.

The following sites were completed under the scheme, which is part of the council’s Environmental Growth strategy:

• Penzance; Bolitho Gardens, Milllennium Woods, Love Lane Wildlife Garden, Mennaye Boating Lake and Mann's Field

• Hayle; Copperhouse Pool Margins, Treveglos Meadow and Millpond Gardens

• Camborne; Tuckingmill Valley Park, Wheal Harriet (Elim Centre) and Park an Tansys open space.

• Pool; East Pool Park, Treloweth Park and Crembling Well. New trees have also been planted on Tolvaddon Road.

• Redruth; Treskerby Playing Field, Trenoweth Playing Field, Knights Way Field and St Day Road Cemetery.

• Bude; Goldsworthy Field, Berries Avenue and Kings Hill Wood

• Saltash; Warfelton Field, Grenfell Estate, Saltmill Park and Longstone Park

By the end of this year £3.5m will have been spent on public open spaces, roadside verges and closed cemeteries and churchyards. The project is receiving £2.8m from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020.

The University of Exeter's environmental specialists are working with the Green Infrastructure for Growth project team to measure and understand the benefits of the improved green spaces both for nature and local communities.

For winning the overall award, the Council and Cormac received 200m2 of wildflower turf or seeded earth from Wildflower Turf Ltd.