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Field on the north side of Fairlight Road which is under consideration for the council's solar farms scheme.

Field on the north side of Fairlight Road which is under consideration for the council’s solar farms scheme.

Possible sites for council’s solar farms scheme reduced to two

Having eliminated two of the potential sites for its proposed solar farms scheme, Hastings Borough Council is now left with two remaining options, both in Hastings Country Park. While Natural England’s views on the environmental suitability of the two sites are being sought, the Friends of Hastings Country Park have reiterated their opposition to the scheme. Nick Terdre reports.

Two of the four sites proposed for the council’s solar farm project have been discarded following a high level review by Public Power Solutions, which is carrying out feasibility studies on the project on behalf of the council. One is the partial field to the west of the so-called milking parlour close to Hope Farm, which falls within a 100-metre exclusion zone around a military aircraft crash site designated as a war grave and therefore comes under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986.

The other is part of a field adjacent to Upper Wilting Farm near Crowhurst, which, the council reports, may fall within a potential site of a World War II aircraft crash site; although the exact location is unclear, the site is also subject to the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986, and any further exploration would require a licence from the Ministry of Defence.

So although the council originally envisaged installing solar arrays at three locations, it is now looking at two, both in the Country Park: a field south of the milking parlour and the former helipad site in the north of the park, near to North’s Seat.

PPS – a wholly owned subsidiary of Swindon Borough Council offering “innovative solutions for public sector organisations in the areas of Power and Waste” – has applied to Natural England to have the two sites assessed from a wildlife and ecology perspective under the agency’s paid Discretionary Advice Service. NE has yet to advise whether the application has been accepted.

The consultancy is carrying out feasibility studies for the proposed project in four areas: heritage impact assessment; landscape and visual impact assessment; preliminary ecological appraisal; and agricultural land classification assessment.

Carbon neutral pledge

“As part of our pledge to go carbon neutral by 2030, the council has taken initial steps to gather information about potential sites,” said Cllr Maya Evans, lead councillor for climate change, biodiversity and sustainable development. “Currently, we are part way through a consultation process to discover whether ground-mounted solar arrays on certain fields in the country park are viable.

“Hastings Borough Council wants to actively play its part in tackling climate change by installing renewable energy infrastructure on all viable sites within the town. This includes car parks, rooftops and farming fields in the country parks.

“In order to ensure a sensible and pragmatic decision, we need to gather all available information so that we can strike a balance between getting to carbon neutrality while protecting the unique heritage and natural beauty of our diverse and beautiful town.”

Strongly opposed

The Friends of Hastings Country Park and Nature Reserve are unconvinced by the council’s arguments. “The Friends of Hastings Country Park remain strongly opposed to the Council’s plan for industrial scale solar arrays in an area which the Council itself designated as a Nature Reserve and is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty,” Michael Moor, chair of the Friends, told HOT.

“It is interesting, if depressing, to see the Council changing its ideas about possible sites as they come to realise the implications of particular areas. So now they realise that they can’t disturb a possible war grave in the Nature Reserve.

“But the potential site below the Milking Parlour is immediately above Fairlight Glen which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. And what the Council describes as the ‘helipad’ is actually a different site close to North’s Seat, the highest point in the landscape.

“The development would be on the first open land at the corner of Fairlight Road and Mill Lane coming up the hill from Hastings. We very much hope that Natural England, as the Government’s environmental regulator, is going to take a tough line on the Council’s damaging plans.”

 

Posted 13:06 Tuesday, Jan 14, 2020 In: Home Ground

2 Comments

Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT

  1. Bolshie

    Agree with you entirely there Penny. However, if this report on citing these solar panels is costing £80K as I seem to remember that figure mentioned for the “study,” I would doubt this report will be a negative one.
    I am sure for that kind of money they will have already selected some “consultancy” to knock out a favourable report. I expect they have already weighed up the right outfit to give this a thumbs up. After all they are putting a lot of money with a P.R. exercise fronted by Cllr. Evans who gives me, or maybe you too, that she is some sort of alternative energy expert.
    Something I guess you could see if William Hill will take a bet on.

    Comment by Bolshie — Thursday, Jan 16, 2020 @ 15:58

  2. Penny

    Green credentials were ignored by HBC when they promoted the installation of GAS central heating into 40 flats in Pevensey Road recently.
    Their judgement on these issues is very questionable.
    Let’s hope the reports come in to scupper this plan to install the panels in the Country Park asap before more of our money is spent on “consultants”.

    Comment by Penny — Wednesday, Jan 15, 2020 @ 22:52

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