Don’t alienate people from climate debate say local Greens

Siting solar farms on a precious areas of outstanding natural beauty like Hastings Country Park risks alienated people from the whole debate around our response to climate breakdown says Hastings Green party

While the Party has welcomed the Hastings Borough Council’s commitment to creating local renewable energy it has serious reservations about the siting of ten acres of solar panels in Hastings’ Country Park.

At Monday night’s meeting of the HBC cabinet agreement was given to spending up to £80,400 on consultants fees to examine the feasibility of siting 10 acres of solar panels on land that forms part of the country park.

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Some of the land that would be used for the solar panels if the council’s proposal was eventually given the go-ahead.

A Green party spokesman says: “We have been urging the council to declare a climate emergency and commit to making Hastings carbon neutral by 2030. But we have serious reservations about the siting of ten acres of solar panels in our much-loved Hastings Country Park. Across the country solar farms have been built on brownfield and landfill sites, along motorways and on low grade agricultural land such as that at Upper Wiltings Farm – the other site that has been proposed – but few if any have been permitted in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty such as Hastings Country Park.”

Green Party members also question how only recently HBC leader Peter Chowney gave his support for Hastings making a bid for UNESCO world heritage status: “How does this square with siting a solar farm on the cliff tops?” the spokesman asked.

And members of Hastings Green party also have what they describe as ‘grave concerns’ about what they see as a ‘complete lack of any prior consultation’ with local people. The site in the country park is not mentioned in either of the energy studies commissioned by HBC last year.

“Have even the Management Forum who have overall responsibility for running the country park been consulted? Surely it makes sense to sound out all the bodies that would have to be consulted on such a scheme before committing £80,000 to feasibility studies?

“We need to come together as a town to decide how we fight climate breakdown and where and if we use solar farms needs to be part of that discussion.”

Hastings Green Party has produced an open letter calling on HBC to declare a climate emergency, with one of its key requirements to convene a Citizens’ Assembly to generate local ideas for combating climate breakdown, “We urge everyone to sign this letter which is available at https://www.segreens.com/hastings_climate_emergency

Local Green Party members believe that HBC has an opportunity over the next year to work with the local Community Energy Co-op, Energise Sussex Coast to pre-register solar roofs on public and community buildings that can still benefit from the feed in tariff and contribute in the longer term to shared energy networks.

“Renewable energy is a huge opportunity to work together as a community to create a safe, affordable and secure locally owned energy supply. One large roof like Ore College will provide 0.25 MW of power and you can buy shares in an energy co-op to help make that happen.

“It should be possible in the next year to find 2MW of roof space across the town instead of industrialising the country park – for example, various industrial estates and sites like the Conquest Hospital. There is a danger that by siting solar farms on a precious area of outstanding natural beauty such as Hastings Country Park, people will be alienated from the whole debate around our response to climate breakdown,” says the party spokesman.

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