Rare species are among more than 170 invertebrates, reptiles, and wildflowers recorded at a nature reserve.

They were found during a survey by scientists and experts at Benfield Hill Nature Reserve as part of the City Nature Challenge 2024, an international event that encourages the documentation of wildlife.

Six scarce species were identified. There were five nationally scarce spiders, including the rare and threatened Thin Weblet, and the vulnerable Mottled Umber moth. Other notable species included adders, common lizards and slowworms.

The nature reserve is north of Benfield Valley, which is at the centre of the consultation for a site for the new King Alfred Leisure Centre. Brighton City Council narrowed down a shortlist of 20 locations to two - the existing Hove seafront site or land in Benfield to the south of Sainsbury’s car park, which is subject to a restrictive covenant.

The idea has drawn condemnation, including from former councillor for Hangleton and Knoll Dawn Barnett. Objectors described the potential loss of green space as “devastating”.

Sally Wadsworth, chairwoman of the Benfield Wildlife and Conservation group, said: “I was so pleased that we found so many different species in just one morning with our keen helpers. It is great news that overall nearly ten per cent of species found had conservation status.

"This is fabulous for the reserve, because the Benfield Wildlife and Conservation Groups aim is to protect this rare chalk grassland habitat for future generations. It was so encouraging to see a whole family including children and young people really enthusiastic about nature including small bugs and beasties.”

The Benfield site has also had an encouraging increase in dormice, a creature at threat of extinction. Numbers at Benfield have risen to 17 this spring from only two in spring 2020.

Sally said: “I was staggered on the April monitoring visit to find a total of 17 dormice. This is not only a record for the site but is an unprecedented find at this early time of the year for a species in serious national decline.”

Councillor Alan Robins, chairman of the city council’s culture, heritage, sport, tourism and economic development committee, said more than 3,500 residents responded to the consultation over the King Alfred site.

He said: “The feedback we have received will be important as we move forward to develop an exciting, modern and sustainable new leisure centre.

“Responses from residents will be taken into account alongside work with independent experts to review the costs, benefits, and challenges of the delivery options and cost proposals before a final decision is taken by councillors in the summer.”