The restoration of Falmer Pond is one step closer after a new South Downs conservation project was awarded lottery funding.
Downs to the Sea has been given £130,511 to develop a range of projects, including a detailed plan for the restoration of Falmer Pond.
A specialist will survey what problems the pond faces, which works are needed urgently and how to preserve the biodiversity in the area.
This will then allow the group to bid for part of a further £1.4 million for the restoration work itself.
Matt Thompsett from Friends of Falmer Pond, which will be working with the project, said: “There’s no way we would get approval for a giant civil engineering and biodiversity project without it being properly researched and properly planned.
“I think we stand an awful lot more chance for phase two funding if we can prove that the community is behind the project.
“If we can prove that the community will help support it and maintain it, albeit in a low level way, I think we’re far more likely to win the bid.
“I don’t feel it’s right to spend a whole lot of money to find that in 10 years’ time it has deteriorated back to the state we were in at the start.
“The reason why we’re doing this is not to create a photo opportunity, it’s to create an ecosystem that is self-sustaining that benefits living things, not just human beings.
“But also we’re creating a model of how communities should be looking after their wild spaces and not just relying on local government funding a restoration.
“We need to own our wild spaces and take care of them.”
Creating the restoration plan will involve significant research and consultation with local residents, conservation agencies and local council departments.
Friends of Falmer Pond, set up in response to fish dying in the low water level this summer, will also help with ongoing maintenance and conservation of the pond.
Downs to the Sea, which has been set up by South Downs National Park and other local authorities, including Brighton and Hove City Council, is also developing other projects including farm and village ponds, a rare coastal saline lagoon and two major wetland nature reserves.
The funding comes from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
A council spokesperson said: “We’re delighted that our joint bid with the South Downs National Park for National Lottery funding to develop a plan for improving Falmer Pond has been successful.
“We all recognise the need for long-term improvements to the pond. As a minimum it needs de-silting and for the leaks to be fixed.
“The funding we have received so far will enable us to work on the detail of a specification for the works we need to carry out.
“The Friends of Falmer Pond group has a key role to play in this. We are looking forward to working closely with them on this really worthwhile project.
“We will of course also consult with Falmer Parish Council.”
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