Two sites in Hastings Country Park still in contention as locations for solar panel installation

Hastings Borough Council (HBC) has confirmed it is now looking at just two possible sites to install solar panels both on Hastings Country Park having discounted another two.

One of the sites still in contention is the field to the south of the milking parlour; the other is the former helipad site.

It’s almost a year since HBC announced plans to explore the possibility of siting solar panels on the country park, a move that attracted supporters but also a significant number of critics.

This week Councillor Maya Evans, lead councillor for climate change, biodiversity and sustainable development, explained why HBC has opted for the two sites it has: “As part of our pledge to go carbon neutral by 2030, the council has taken initial steps to gather information about potential sites. Currently, we are part way through a consultation process to discover whether ground-mounted solar arrays on certain fields in the country park are viable.

“We have discounted two of the original four sites we were looking at, to the west of the milking parlour in the Country Park, and Upper Wilting Farm.

“There is an exclusion zone around a WWII military aircraft crash site in the Country Park, which is protected as a war grave. And the site we were looking at near Upper Wilting Farm may fall within the site of another WWII ‘plane crash site. Any further exploration would need a licence from the Ministry of Defence.

“HBC wants to actively play its part in tackling climate change by installing renewable energy infrastructure on all viable sites within the town. This includes car parks, rooftops and farming fields in the country parks. 

“In order to ensure a sensible and pragmatic decision, we need to gather all available information so that we can strike a balance between getting to carbon neutrality while protecting the unique heritage and natural beauty of our diverse and beautiful town.”

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Last year Michael Moor, Chair of The Friends of Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve wrote to Natural England expressing his organisation’s concerns in the letter he said: “We submit that there is particular need for rigour in considering this project since:

  • the council is the developer and council planners will be judges in their own cause;
  • PPS (Public Power Solutions), as the council’s agents, will be reliant on information given by the council, which may be partial and incomplete;
  • with the possibility of a more lucrative partnership at a later stage of the project, PPS cannot necessarily be relied on to provide all relevant facts.

Mr Moor’s letter went on to say that while his organisation is in favour of renewable energy it recognises a balance needs to be struck between the public interest and the environment: “We do not accept that in the present case the proposed scheme is of such public interest that it outweighs other matters which the council is legally required to consider.

“We submit that the project is inconsistent with the purposes of the designations of Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, SSSI, SAC and Local Nature Reserve that are relevant to the chosen sites,” he told Natural England’s Area Manager for Sussex and Kent James Seymour.

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