Why can’t the former tip at Pebsham be used as the site for the ten acres of solar panels that Hastings Borough Council (HBC) wants to put on the town’s country park?
That’s the question that’s been asked of council leader Peter Chowney this week by local MP Amber Rudd who says in her letter: “I would… welcome your comments on the Pebsham Landfill site, which would be better suited for solar panels than Hastings Country Park.”
It was in January that HBC unveiled its controversial plan for solar panels on the land of the Country Park and Nature Reserve and a campaign call immediately went out to keep the country park free from what was described as ‘industrial scale’ solar development.
The scheme was branded ‘reckless’ by The Friends of Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve, the organisation also saying that the council was ‘breathtakingly inconsistent’ in making the proposal.
The group said the authority was ‘refusing to fully consider available advice’ from Natural England before spending money on a business study for two solar power installations.
Michael Moor, chair of the Friends, said: “We find the inconsistencies in the council’s approach to this plan breathtaking. In the search for a bit of extra income, they seem ready to ride roughshod over their own policies for protecting the precious environment in the Country Park and to disregard their previous planning decisions against development there.
“The Country Park is part of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is an officially designated Local Nature Reserve which contains a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation. We hope that Natural England will now use its authority to pull the Council up short on its reckless proposals for such a sensitive site.”
This week Ms Rudd told the council leader: “It is vital that renewable energy is embraced by the community, rather than becoming a taboo issue. I fear that the plans you have proposed for the country park are of the latter due to the significant public response they have received. My petition has reached nearly 1,500 signatures and many constituents have voiced their individual concerns to me. I believe that we should be creating more renewable energy sources which also enjoy the support of the community.
“I have been campaigning with Energise Sussex Coast to have schools and other community buildings install solar panels on their property in order to save money while also protecting the environment. I believe this offers a viable alternative to large-scale solar parks which can detract from our environment. More importantly, the energy generated from these community initiatives is used locally, rather than being sold onto the power grid. I hope that HBC will recognise the merit of these projects, and consider them as an alternative to the proposal for the country park.”
Ms Rudd then goes on to ask about the situation at the old Pebsham tip saying she believes that would be better suited for solar panels than Hastings Country Park, she tells Mr Chowney: “In a letter to me, you highlighted that the land is unsuitable as it was still settling. I understand this is referring to one line from a consultant’s report in 2017. Please could you confirm if the land is still settling? If so, I understand there are technological advances which make installing solar panels on landfill sites possible.
“Along with landfill sites, constituents have suggested to me that solar carports would provide similar levels of energy while not detracting from our areas of natural beauty. Has HBC considered using its car parks in Hastings to this effect?
“I believe it is important that before we take lasting action on our green spaces, we must ensure we have tried all alternatives available. When we have clear options available to work together and transform community spaces into renewable energy sources, we should not pass up these opportunities,” she concludes.
On its website HBC says about the Pebsham site: “The land at Pebsham landfill site is still settling so any solar panels put on the site would move and therefore affect their ability to generate power. We will keep this site under review and will consider using it in the future.”