The Wildlife Trust revealed that more than 10 per cent of England’s 6,590 Local Wildlife Sites have been lost or damaged in the past five years, mainly through building and reduced incentives to farmers to protect them.
The trust’s "Secret Spaces" report focused on sites described by the Government as "of local importance for nature conservation" and designated by partnerships of conservationists and local authorities. Such sites include churchyards, flower-rich roadsides, meadows and ancient woodlands.
They do not have legal protection but local authorities should safeguard them through planning policies.
Wildlife Trust director Stephen Trotter said: "These sites are the Cinderella of the natural environment.
"Many are quiet, unnoticed wild places in which nature thrives. We need greater recognition and protection in the planning and decision-making process."