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.
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.