A campaign call has gone out to keep Hastings Country Park free from ‘industrial scale’ solar development.
Tonight the cabinet of Hastings Borough Council (HBC) will consider whether to commit to spending more than £80,000 to develop a detailed business case for going ahead with a project that would see up to ten acres of Hastings Country park become a ‘solar farm’.
While councillors will get the chance to discuss the option for the first time at tonight’s meeting, Hastings MP Amber Rudd has already come out against it and has launched a petition asking HBC to think again.
Ms Rudd says: “As a former Climate Change Secretary I understand the huge importance of encouraging the production of renewable energy through resources like solar panels and that it is an important part of the solution for our future energy needs.
“But solar panels would detract from the natural beauty of this lovely green space we are lucky to have.
“Hastings Country Park is ‘the jewel in the crown of Hastings’ and a very special area.”
Outlining her reason for opposing this particular scheme Ms Rudd says it would destroy up to ten acres of the Country Park which is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty; the income that the Council has predicted that it will make from the scheme is ‘wholly unreliable’; there has been no consultation with local people including the Country Park’s Management Forum about the scheme and it sets a dangerous precedent for development in the Country Park.
In an appeal to local people Ms Rudd says: “I am sure that you are as concerned as I am about the proposals by HBC to install industrial scale solar panels in Hastings Country Park. Solar energy has been a fantastic source of clean energy and I welcome it’s use on roofs, brown field sites and areas of land such as those close motorways.
“As Secretary of State for Energy I oversaw its continued growth but Solar expansion should however not be done at the expense of our natural environment. I would therefore, ask that you join me in opposing HBC’s plans to install solar panels in Hastings Country Park – a move, which would damage our much-valued local green space.”
While at tonight’s meeting councillors are only being asked to give the go ahead to further detailed business planning to take place it is estimated that if the project ultimately got the go-ahead it would cost £2.1m to build with estimates for the revenue it could generate ranging from between £165,000 and £430,000 per year.
While MsRudd questions revenue estimates, council officials say they are, “conservative and realistic.”
Local people have begun to have their say on social media,Charlotte Rendell said: “I was born and raised in Hastings and have always enjoyed the open space and beauty the country park has to offer, something we as residents of the town should protect.”
Neil Mather says: “Solar farms are great in general and I would be happy to see them in fields around the town, but not in the Country Park, which is a Nature Reserve and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.”
Chris Baker adds: “Solar panels create ‘free’ energy! What’s wrong with that? Would we prefer windmills?”
Ben Bruges says: “Brownfield sites, buildings or car parks, not areas of outstanding beauty! Solar farms are horrible. There are so many better ways of collecting and using radiation.”