A CAMPAIGN to transform two golf courses into sites for rewilding had been backed by TV nature presenter Chris Packham.

The drive to rewild Hollingbury and Waterhall golf courses in Brighton after their lease expires in March has been gathering momentum.

Climate action group Extinction Rebellion (XR) has been leading calls for the land to be used to support wildlife.

One of its members, Claudia Fisher, launched a rewilding petition which has attracted almost 2,000 signatures. She hailed it a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”.

The group plans to stage several demonstrations around Brighton, including one at Hollingbury golf course on Saturday. XR protesters are planning to form the outline of the movement’s giant hourglass symbol next to the golf course at Hollingbury hill fort.

They will march down Ditchling Road towards The Level and tug their boat-come-mascot, called Greta, along the streets of Brighton and Hove.

On January 16, the group plans to meet at 3pm outside Hove Town Hall with a samba band.

The BBC Springwatch presenter sent a message to the group promising his support and apologising for not being able to attend.

He wrote: “I would have loved to have helped out here because, as you say, it’s ‘right up my street’.”

He offered to help the campaigners by advertising the events, retweeting and posting on social media and putting out a plug for the petition.

Claudia said she was thrilled with the backing from both Chris and the public. She said: “It’s incredibly touching to see all this support. It has obviously touched a real chord in people’s hearts.

“We want to help the butterflies, birds and dormice suffering in the current biodiversity crisis. Many of these animals have just gone.

“We know that money’s tight but we want to work with the council so they honour their commitment to tackle the climate emergency and save our biodiversity.

In September, Brighton and Hove City Council announced it had put the two golf courses on the market.

The council has been inviting proposals to let the sites for the next 25 years when the current contract ends in March.

It said one option would be to devote the land – which sits in the South Downs National Park – to nature and rewilding. But the council also said the site could be used for more golf courses.

Claudia said the council would reveal the bids it had received today.

Not everyone is happy with the idea. The Argus has previously reported on a petition by golfers to keep Hollingbury Park Golf Club open.

In November, Stephen Garrioch, captain at the club, said: “There’s great concern it might be taken back for rewilding, or some other purpose than golf. It’s been a golf course for more than 100 years.

“We have 450 season ticket holders and on top of that the people who just come and play.

“There’s a lot going on and it’s far from declining – there’s probably a society every week.

“It’s one of the only courses that stays open all year. It would be a huge loss.”

When the council first appealed for bids, Councillor Alan Robins said: “By inviting proposals on long term leases for golf or other leisure uses we hope to receive a range of options to give both courses a sustainable future.”