Greenfield development is now seen as the greatest threat to the county’s wildlife habitats according to a recent survey by CPRE Sussex.
The survey, which was carried out at summer events across the county asked people to rank the issues which they felt posed the greatest threat to the Sussex countryside.
The results show that, of those questioned, most people believe new housing developments (61.1%), new roads (41.1%) and a dysfunctional planning system (37.6%) are damaging Sussex’s natural environment more than any other potential threats.
The CPRE says that one of the events involved in the survey was the wildlife themed Floral Fringe Fair at Knepp Castle, near Horsham, which this year attracted a record crowd of nearly 7,000 people. The venue is the extreme opposite of urban development – a ground-breaking 3,500 acre re-wilding project which aims to return the land to its natural state with as little human intervention as possible.
Floral Fringe organisers, Jean and Steve Jackman say the fair’s growing popularity is further evidence that more and more people are becoming aware of the importance of preserving the Sussex countryside and the valuable wildlife habitats it provides.
“The fair’s growing popularity is in part due to its beautiful setting,” says Mrs Jackman. “But also due to the inspiring fact that many young parents appreciate the value of wildlife and the beneficial effects of Nature and want to encourage their children to learn about conservation, biodiversity and the countryside around them.
“At the fair they have a chance to see and learn about live bats, birds, bees and insects on interactive stands from The Amateur Entomologists, The Natural Beekeeping Trust, Warnham Nature Reserve and The Sussex Wildlife Trust amongst others, as well as learning about the re-wilding project from Knepp’s own learning hub, which is specially set up during the fair.”
CPRE Sussex Director Kia Trainor agrees: “For many years there has been concern that we are ‘disconnecting’ with nature,” she says.
“But I think now there is a growing awareness of the value of our countryside, not just to support us with food and leisure opportunities, but also to provide nature corridors, mitigate against climate change and alleviate flood risk.”
Last month CPRE Sussex won a National award for its Making Places project which aims to protect the countryside by supporting local communities to provide the “right development goes in the right places.”
Meanwhile, the partnership between Knepp Castle and Floral Fringe is set to continue next year.