Protests were held in Sussex at the weekend as climate change activists Extinction Rebellion lead calls to create a wildlife haven on two golf courses

They’re the protest group that have blockaded bridges, shut down parts of central London, and glued themselves to buildings – all in the name of addressing climate change. Now Extinction Rebellion have turned their attention to golf.

The fate of Hollingbury and Waterhall golf clubs, in Brighton, is in the balance with XR leading calls for the courses to be turned into sites for rewilding.

The leases at the council-owned clubs expire at the end of March and a petition launched by local XR activist, Claudia Fisher, has racked up more than 4,000 signatures ahead of a key authority meeting later this week.

Protestors supporting the plans marched through the town last Saturday, with some having started their demonstrations at the Hollingbury course.

They’ve had some high profile support in their fight, with TV nature presenter Chris Packham urging his followers to back the petition.

Last September, Brighton & Hove City Council announced they had put the two courses on the market and invited proposals to let the sites for the next 25 years.

One option under discussion would leave the land, sitting in the South Downs National Park, to nature and rewilding. Another could see it used for more golf courses.

The council’s tourism, equalities, communities and culture committee (TECC) are set to review the site tenders at a meeting on Thursday, but the petition – to ‘create a haven for wildlife and wellbeing by restoring biodiversity on Hollingbury and Waterhall golf courses’ – requests a pause.

extinction rebellion

Written by Fisher, it states: “Extinction Rebellion Brighton urge TECC to take this unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ensure that the internationally endangered, wildlife-rich and diverse chalk grassland ecosystems of the two sites can regenerate and flourish and that eco-friendly community food production and public health, wellbeing and recreational activities are promoted.

“It will be necessary to first pause, next consult and finally assess before a fully-considered decision can be made on the future of the golf courses, to allow recognition of the need to restore the internationally endangered wildlife-rich chalk grassland ecosystems of the two sites (and associated rare and endangered species such as rare downland plans and insects, cuckoo, nightingale, yellowhammer, and willow warbler), maximise carbon drawdown, and obtain ‘right to roam’ status across our downland to re-connect locals and visitors with nature.”

The captain of one of the courses under threat, Stephen Garrioch at Hollingbury, said protestors wore chemical suits and lay on the ground on Saturday.

“That doesn’t give us a very good image, and we told them we do not use harmful chemicals anymore,” he told The Argus.

“They are not against the golf course, but there were a few people there who clearly do not want it to be used for that.

“But there’s no reason why everyone cannot still enjoy it together. I’m not saying they are bad people. I hope we are coming from the same place.”

Garrioch warned an extension to discuss the site’s future would mean it had to close on March 31, and expressed doubts whether it would then reopen.

“You have then put 30 people out of work, including the bar staff, chefs and managers, and the head greenkeeper who lives on the site will have to go.”

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