BIRD feeders, bug hotels and hedgehog houses are amongst the features that could be funded by a new scheme designed to improve biodiversity in Lancashire.

Parish, town and neighbourhood councils across the county will be invited to opt in to a Lancashire County Council initiative which will see each of them handed a £300 grant to carry out projects that will give a boost to nature in their area.

A £58,000 cash pot has been established to cover the cost of what County Hall acknowledges will be “small-scale” projects.

But Labour county councillor Mark Clifford decried the grants as being “in effect, chicken feed…[which] will be seen as an insulting and derisory amount by many”.

Cllr Shaun Turner, environment cabinet member, suggested his assessment missed the point behind the idea.

“What you’ve got to see with this is that [it] is about micro-events at a local level – it’s about small schemes, and in the grand scheme of…all the other things that we’re doing, it really is a good thing,” he said.

He stressed the money was being made available on an annual basis and it could be used to supplement the work of schools or local businesses.

Other potential uses for the funding include the installation or creation of nest boxes, bat boxes, communal gardens, ‘living walls’, pollinator nest sites, wildflower areas and ponds.

Cllr Graham Gooch said as the lowest-tier of local authority, parishes were perfectly placed to make any money they received go “a long way”.

“The reason it’s not chicken feed is because parish councils work cheap. The councillors don’t get paid, we have very small running costs and we have access to volunteers and local people and local businesses chipping in for these things,” he added.

Lancashire has 212 parishes. For the past decade, they have been eligible for small grants to fund low-level maintenance of public rights of way. The biodiversity grants scheme will be administered under the same umbrella.

Three ecologists have been recruited by County Hall to focus on Lancashire's 1,200 biological sites.

“Until recently, we’ve only be able to…manage them – now we’re going to try and make them biodiverse and encourage nature there,” Clllr Turner said.

County engineers have also completed 755 hectares of peatland restoration.