Is council ‘breathtakingly inconsistent’ and ‘reckless’ over country park plans?

Planned ‘industrial-scale’ development of solar arrays on Hastings Country Park shows Hastings Borough Council (HBC) to be ‘breathtakingly inconsistent’ and ‘reckless’ according to Friends of Hastings Country Park.

The ‘Friends’ has written to Natural England, the Government’s national regulator, pointing out the inconsistencies between national environmental rules and the HBC’s planning policies on the one hand and its proposals for the solar arrays on the other.

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In their letter the Friends make the following key points:

  • The Council has chosen land that is not appropriate, and where the visual impact of the project would be very detrimental to this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
  • Although it appears that the Council acknowledge that the sites are within the Impact Risk Zones for the Site of Special Scientific Interest, they do not seem to have considered the implications of this or commissioned an Environmental Impact Assessment.
  • The council appears to be acting inconsistently with, or failing to take account of, a number of its own environmental policies, particularly by requiring from third parties an Ecological Constraints and Opportunities Plan whereas no such plan has so far been mentioned in regard to their own project.
  • The council has consistently refused planning applications for residential extensions and improvements in and around the Country Park on the basis that they would be contrary not only to the National Planning Policy Framework, but also to The High Weald Area Of Natural Beauty Management Plan and a number of council policies incorporated in the Hastings Local Plan.  It would seem that the council does not intend to be so rigorous with regard to its own present proposal.

Michael Moor, chair of the Friends, says: “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.”

The Friends of Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve was established more than ten years ago to protect and promote the Country Park. It has about 190 local people among its membership.

Hastings In Focus asked HBC to comment yesterday about what stage their plans for solar arrays on the Country Park had reached and while our request has been acknowledged no detailed response has been received.

It was in January that HBC’s cabinet votes 8-2 to spend more than £80,000 on ‘professional studies and pre-planning consultations’ to develop a detailed business case for the installation of ground mounted solar panels (arrays) across ten acres of Hastings Country Park.

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4 thoughts on “Is council ‘breathtakingly inconsistent’ and ‘reckless’ over country park plans?

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  1. So whats new here? This description of ‘breathtakingly Inconsistent and reckless’ is a description that is well suited to this council and one which can be applied to 99.9% of their planning decisions when it comes to preserving what we have left here in this town….
    Green spaces, ancient woodland, listed buildings – you name it…nothing is safe from the clutches of HBC.
    The Country Park is our jewel in the crown in Hastings but even that special place is not safe from this ruthless council who appear to be seeking yet more ways to raise paltry sums of money no matter the damage to the environment.

    We can go back over a decade and see that this council was prepared to sacrifice an important diverse and unique habitat known as Robsack Meadow for the sake of 32 multi storey flats which could have been sited on much more suitable and available land…thankfully the Plannng Inspector scotched that shameful attempt to destroy yet more of our wonderful ancient woodlands…

    Just because the council owns these sites does not mean to say they can grant themselves planning consent to do as they will….same applies to the straw house they are going to build in the Country park – they own the land and they grant themselves planning consent…who is going to stop them? Same situation at the old bathing pool site in St. Leonards…local protest mounts but the council owns this land and its not looking hopeful that they can be stopped in their ludicrous plans for this site.

    Who is going to stop this utterly shameful attempt to install these solar panels in our beautifcul County Park – if we need to raise funds to fight legal battles over this, lets start fundraising now before it is too late.
    It is time to call this feckless council to account – if they get away with this there will be no stopping them..

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  2. Most of what I wanted to say about this appalling idea by HBC has been said by Lady Marigold. Her observations about this accurately reflect how this council responds to public concerns or outrage. The fact is they don’t react or listen, they just continue on regardless.
    Apart from those sites mentioned just look at Archery Road. What a sad and total mess that is going to be in what is supposedly a Conservation area. So much of Decimus Burton’s creation destroyed over the years by this council. No Ward councillors back from the time this redevelopment of the college site were ever concerned or raised issue. Now look at it !!
    What I would like to know as it does not appear. or I have missed it, who exactly came up with this bizarre concept. Here we have a Straw House at a risible cost for what it is and what purpose it is to be used for – now this.
    This council are “Custodians” of this park. It is an open space for the people. Not for them to turn it into some solar panel field. If they want to be pioneers in ecological issues then how about looking at say Wave Energy sources from the sea. There is plenty of it in the borough

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  3. The council’s motivation for locating few unobtrusive solar panels on a tiny part of the Country Park site is not to “raise paltry sums of money” as the Friends suggest, but to play its part in tackling a worldwide climate emergency. That Britain needs to play its part – and urgently – has been acknowledged by experts and now HM Government.
    “Breathtaking” is indeed right. Our planet, along with the Country Park, is being consumed by a frightening global warming that, if not checked, will threaten life on Earth. The need to develop alternatives to fossil fuel is beyond critical.
    Set against this, the concerns of the Friends do indeed seem “paltry”. Rather than threatening and posturing, they might like to consider this, and work with, not against, the council.

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  4. In response to Mr. Dillons comment I would like to point out that we do try and work ‘with’ the council but this scheme is a step too far. The damage to the Country Park would far outweigh any benefit. These huge solar panels have to be securely fenced in so no members of the public can get near them (they carry high voltage electricity) and these installations are not conducive to the safety of wildlife either. Acres of the country park will become home to these panels and the flora will not be able to thrive in this area. Also damage caused to widlife during installation will be severe – reptiles and smaller mammals will suffer.
    Our country park is the last place where this council should be considering this installation.
    And for Mr. Dillon to describe the Friends of the Country Park as ‘paltry’, ‘threatening and posturing’ is a well below the belt comment.

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