During a meeting of the full council on Tuesday (November 23), councillors agreed that money would be taken from the Community Infrastructure Levy – funds collected from developers and spent on local infrastructure – to pay the bulk of the £665,000 cost.
Another £90,000 will come from Network Rail for enhancements where the railway crosses the corridors.
A programme of work will be carried out on up to 60 sites between the South Downs National Park and Pagham and Chichester harbours, and will include tree, hedge and woodland planting, re-wilding, the installation of green bridges and the creation of wildflower meadows and ponds.
It will be carried out in conjunction with the landowners.
Susan Taylor, cabinet member for planning, said: “This is a project of which [the council] can rightly be proud.
“And at a time when the importance of the environment to both physical and mental health – as well as the awareness of the fragility of nature – has never been more apparent, the implementation of strategic wildlife corridors is a positive step forward.”
She added: “The proposed strategic wildlife corridors will allow species to migrate for food and breeding. It acknowledges that wildlife sites cannot exist in isolation but need connections to other sites and habitats.
“This will ensure connectivity for wildlife and increase resilience for species.”
Joanthan Brown (Lib Dem, Southbourne) agreed.
He said: “I think that it’s useful for residents to be able to see that, just occasionally, there are advantages that come from development because, obviously, the Community Infrastructure Levy is funded by it.”
The project forms part of the council’s Infrastructure Business Plan for 2021/26 and will help to deliver the Local Plan, particularly policies concerning green infrastructure and biodiversity.
Mr Brown added: “We do need to note that there is real difficulty protecting these wildlife corridors.
“I hope they will become easier to protect when the policy gains more weight within the Local Plan – but obviously it’s currently quite limited what we can do to stop landowners causing considerable destruction.”
The meeting was told that the project was so impressive it had been cited and used as a case study by consultants compiling a report for other local authorities, as well as by Natural England.
As well as the wildlife benefits, it will also signpost landowners towards funding for other enhancements through schemes such as the Forestry Commission’s Woodland Creation Fund; the Woodland Carbon Fund; Natural England’s Higher Level Stewardship Scheme and any opportunities for funding under the proposed new Biodiversity Net Gain Scheme.
Local people will be encouraged to ‘adopt’ important sites within the corridors to be enhanced and managed for wildlife through volunteering and over the longer term.