Wildlife in Chichester’s internationally important habitats under threat, campaigners fear

The Chichester area is home to internationally important habitats, and some of the UK and Europe’s rarest protected wildlife, but residents fear their future is under threat.

We have all 18 species of bats found in the UK, including rarities like the horseshoe bat, as well as water voles, greater crested newts and even otters.

Bats have been recorded flying at night in the Chichester area

Bats have been recorded flying at night in the Chichester area

Read more: Don’t Destroy Chichester Harbour: Wildlife policies ‘need to be significantly stronger’

As campaign groups, individual residents and the protectors of Chichester Harbour fight for appropriate wildlife corridors in the Chichester Harbour Local Plan, wildlife film-maker Sarah Cunliffe has put together a recording to demonstrate the variety of life in the area.

Sarah said: “As the Chichester area from the City to Southbourne faces a further 7,200 houses being built, at no other time in our local history have our wildlife and wild places been under such threat.

“Critical wildlife corridors, which connect the harbour to the South Downs National Park, are now at serious risk.”

Water voles live in the banks of rivers and wetlands, or in small nests in fens and reedbeds

Water voles live in the banks of rivers and wetlands, or in small nests in fens and reedbeds

There are currently four strategic wildlife corridors proposed along the A259, between Emsworth and Chichester.

Campaigners say an area at Nutbourne Marshes, one fifth of the corridors previously suggested, has been dropped, for no apparent reason, and the rest of these vital corridors are under threat if they are not formally adopted as part of the council’s Local Plan in the autumn.

Richard Craven, Chichester Harbour Conservancy director and harbour master, said: “Nature and biodiversity are being squeezed at every turn in the UK - 56 per cent of all UK species declined between 1970 and 2013 and 13 per cent were threatened with extinction.

“Habitat fragmentation is a significant part of the problem and every opportunity should be taken to strengthen and enhance the habitats linking Chichester Harbour AONB and the South Downs National Park.”

The adonis blue is a butterfly found in chalk downland, in warm sheltered spots, flying low over vegetation

The adonis blue is a butterfly found in chalk downland, in warm sheltered spots, flying low over vegetation

Wildlife corridors are considered important because of the role creatures and open spaces play in the community. Natural areas protect homes from flooding, insects pollinate crops, healthy ecosystems purify water and nature and open places are generally good for wellbeing.

Henri Brocklebank, director of conservation, policy and evidence at Sussex Wildlife Trust, said: “For nature to thrive we need to start building a network of connected wild spaces across our landscape, extending into every part of our towns, cities and countryside. We need robust wildlife corridors so that species can move freely through the landscape and spread out into new areas, including new housing developments.

“There’s an exciting opportunity here to put the natural environment at the heart of local planning to ensure that new developments are great places to live, for both people and wildlife.”

Sarah said people can help by recording wildlife in the area using the I-Record App https://www.brc.ac.uk/irecord/.

She said: “Data is power. If you live near a wildlife corridor, your records are critical to help protect them and the timescale is now.”

Andrew Kerry-Bedell, from the new Save Our Harbour Villages campaign group, said, “We are in danger of sleep-walking into environmental disaster from the aggressive activities of housing developers, and from an apparent lack of will from the council to protect our valuable wildlife. We need living landscapes for future generations.“

Campaign launch: Don’t Destroy Chichester Harbour campaign launches

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Chichester District Council viewpoint: Don’t Destroy Chichester Harbour: Chichester District Council responds

Save our South-Coast viewpoint: Don’t Destroy Chichester Harbour: Cross-party report of concerns ‘ignored’, says Save Our South-Coast group SOS-C

Chichester Harbour Conservancy viewpoint: Don’t Destroy Chichester Harbour: Small corridor of land has vital significance