There will be no solar panels on Hastings Country Park and Nature Reserve, Hastings Borough Council has announced this afternoon it is abandoning plans first put forward in January last year.
It was at a council cabinet meeting in January 2019 that councillors agreed to spend more than £80,000 investigating the possibility of housing ground mounted solar arrays ion was was described at the time as ‘industrial-scale’ development in the country park.
This included a detailed examination of the business case for the arrays. The council also had to seek guidance from Natural England’s Discretionary Advisory Service (DAS) on the impacts of placing the arrays in the nature reserve.
Today a council spokesman explained that this process had taken longer than hoped and significant changes in both council resources and leadership had taken place in the meantime, as well as the global outbreak of Covid-19.
Councillor Kim Forward, leader of the council, and Councillor Colin Fitzgerald, deputy leader, have begun reviewing all planned major projects in the light of Covid-19 and considering the council’s likely new position in terms of budget and officer resources.
One of the early outcomes of these reviews – and following the response from Natural England – is that the council will not pursue the installation of Solar Arrays in the country park.
Despite this the council remains committed to finding solutions to the significant challenges presented by climate change, as laid out in our recently published Climate Change Strategy.
Officers are continuing to explore other renewable energy schemes, such as roof top solar and solar car ports. These will be developed in partnership over the coming months.
Ms Forward said today: “We would like to take the opportunity to thank partners, particularly the Friends of Hastings Country Park, for engaging with us during this time and acting as robust critical friends as we looked to deliver solutions to the climate emergency, we all face.
“The council’s climate change strategy provides a significant commitment to tackle climate change and reduce our carbon footprint. It is only by working with others, in partnership, and having difficult conversations that we will be able to identify and implement approaches that respond to that emergency.”
Councllor Maya Evans, cabinet lead for climate change, said: “We made it clear in our recently published climate strategy that we would look for workable solutions to help tackle the climate emergency and would need to be flexible as the strategy develops. That requires creativity and a lot of exploration. It also means moving on once we’ve investigated things if they don’t meet our needs.”
Councillor Rob Lee who leads the Conservative group on the council told Hastings In Focus: “The council has finally made the sensible decision not to spoil the beauty of the Country Park.
“After spending tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayers money on consultants to tell them what we already knew; the Country Park is special and should remain so. The Conservatives have never supported the scheme and neither did the town.
“I hope now that the Labour administration can instead focus on providing good quality essential services rather than badly thought out schemes such as this.”