THE city council could press ahead with plans to rewild a golf course after the company which originally wanted to do it dropped out.

The unnamed community interest company was named the preferred leaseholder in January.

But the company withdrew after a marketing assessment for the former Waterhall golf clubhouse as an events venue was not favourable in the wake of lockdown.

Now, councillors are being asked to approve Brighton and Hove City Council’s parks service taking over the site instead.

A report going before this week’s tourism,  equalities, communities and culture committee said: “Cityparks already manages land on either side of the golf course for both public recreation and wildlife benefit.

“The combination of this with the golf course land will increase the impact of Waterhall both from an ecological and public recreation point of view and offer some economies of scale.”

If Cityparks takes over the rewilding project, it would need one or two of the outbuildings.

Proposals include introducing grazing animals with minimal intervention as a low-cost but effective intervention.

A marketing exercise looking into future uses for the clubhouse and other buildings, such as education, bike hire and camping, would also be carried out.

The community interest company that was due to take over the site has also  paid for an ecological survey.

Carrying out this survey helps future applications for countryside stewardship grants.

The report said: “In its most ambitious form, true rewilding would see the return of all the species that are missing due to human influence.

“In South East England this would include species from pine marten and wild cats to straight-tusked elephants, hippopotamus and wolves.

“A fully restored animal community living in a large wilderness would deliver the important natural processes that created the conditions for all current native biodiversity to evolve.

“These conditions were last present in The Last Interglacial, 125,000 years ago, when humans were absent from Britain and the climate was similar to today.”

Rewilding of the Knepp Estate near Horsham, is mentioned as an example of successful restoration.

White storks have been spotted nesting there this year and rare species including purple emperor butterflies and turtle doves have returned.

 The tourism, equalities, communities and culture committee’s virtual meeting is broadcast on the council’s website from 4pm on Thursday.

l Turn to pages 20 and 21 for pictures of stags and deer at the Knepp Estate.