A communication plan could be launched in East Devon to help get support from residents for rewilding.

Councillors on the district council’s scrutiny committee acknowledged that supporting the environment and encouraging biodiversity were positive aspirations, but residents don’t always know whether land is simply being overlooked or left for rewilding.

Council officers said so-called wildlife improvement areas, where the authority manages land to help promote nature, had been created since 2010, starting with wildflowers in 13 meadows and several older cemeteries.

The strategy was more widely rolled out in 2019 and 2020, but it was recognised the following year that “better public consultation methods were required for specific areas”.

Councillors had “varying levels of awareness” about how wildlife improvement areas fits with legislation, council policy, service plans and codes of practice.

A report for the meeting said: “It is important to inform and educate councillors as a whole of the rationale for the introduction and expansion of wildlife improvement areas across the district, which will ‘level the playing field’ of understanding and, thus, enable councillors to act as advocates for wildlife improvement areas.”

Several community groups, such as Exmouth Tiny Forest, are engaged in creating and encouraging rewilding projects. The report said “citizen science” would be required to help other projects.

Consultations with local communities about rewilding projects had been positive, and other initiatives to keep people informed could be launched, including QR codes on trees linked to further information about that location’s wildlife scheme.

Councillor Duncan Mackinder (Liberal Democrat, Yarty) said: “If we can show communities the area before and after, we can get the community to engage.

“The people against it become champions as they see its impact, and if we tell them what’s being done as we monitor sites and gather data on them, their approval and involvement could grow.”

The committee passed a recommendation that the council would seek to create a communication strategy.