The Friends of The Country Park Nature Reserve need a Secretary and Membership Administrator. If you might be interested in finding out about these key voluntary tasks please contact our Chair, Michael Moor at email@example.com
26 of us joined Andy Phillips on a walk to discover Spring Bees in the Country Park.
Sadly, the weather was against us and we battled cold, hail and dark clouds. Despite all this, we had a wonderful walk and did actually see some bees as the ground warmed up. As usual, Andy was very informative and we all came away with much more knowledge of Spring Bees.
We invite you to our first walk of the year which is
SPRING BEES IN THE COUNTRY PARK
led by Entomologist Andy Phillips
on Saturday 13th April at 10:30
Meet at the Country Park Visitor Centre, TN35 4AD
There were strong feelings expressed when local residents gathered at the White Rock Hotel on 7 March to discuss the Council’s decision to continue with its proposal for two solar power installations in the Country Park. The Friends of the Country Park group, which organised the meeting, has previously expressed its concern at the decision by the Council’s Cabinet to spend £80,000 on a business study to see whether there is a financial case for building solar panels covering 10 acres of this Local Nature Reserve and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
That Council decision was made dependent on it first getting advice from Natural England, as the national regulator for protected landscapes such as the Country Park. Natural England has now responded to the Council and made a number of powerful warning points quoting the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework that for areas like our Country Park “This landscape should be afforded the highest status of protection in relation to the conservation and enhancement of landscape and scenic beauty” and that “All development within Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty should be limited in scale and extent”.
Michael Moor, chair of the Friends, commented “Although we all support the idea of alternative sources of power generation, we consider the Council’s decision to plough ahead with its business study regardless of these strong comments from Natural England to be wrong-headed. They risk wasting Council taxpayers money on a project which is unlikely to get past the regulator in the end. We are dismayed by this refusal by the Council to listen to inconvenient facts.”
Frequently Asked Questions about Hastings Borough Council’s plans for an industrial scale solar power development in Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve.
On 1st March 2019 a page was uploaded to the Hastings Borough Council website stating the Council’s answers to frequently asked questions that people might ask about the proposed industrial solar development planned for the Country Park.
We hope that the answers below will give you a better picture of what is planned and what its effects might be.
Q1 Why are you spending council money on solar farms?
The scheme has been devised by the Council’s Head of Income Generation under the Income Generation Strategy. The purpose of the scheme is to generate revenue. It was only after the proposals were questioned by residents that sustainability arguments came into prominence.
Q2 Are you covering the Country Park with solar panels?
The council's plan is to cover ten acres of grazing land at the heart of the Country Park Local Nature Reserve with an industrial scale solar farm.
Q3 So how big a solar farm are we talking about?
The proposed 10 acres is the size of five football pitches; so it is a huge area.
Q4 Why use the land here?
The council owns the land. A Hastings Council commissioned report in 2017 “Sustainable Energy Options Study” excluded the Country Park because of environmental considerations. Other areas were identified and have not been pursued. The report concluded “Opportunities for large scale renewables are limited within HBC’s area, due largely to its urban nature. The Council could consider investment in renewable opportunities outside the area”.
Q5 Isn’t the land at the Country Park contaminated.
No, the land is reasonable to good quality pasture and not contaminated. These fields drain directly into the Fairlight Glen SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) and SAC (Special Area of Conservation). Contaminated run off from these fields led to the last tenant farmer being expelled, the threat of fines from English Nature and the eventual formation of the Local Nature Reserve to protect this sensitive habitat.
Q6 Will they harm wildlife?
Natural England give the following advice: “When considering site selection for utility scale solar developments it is generally agreed that protected areas should be avoided .... solar PV developments should not be built on or near protected areas. As sensitive species and habitats are not necessarily restricted to the geographical boundaries of protected areas, it is imperative that research is undertaken into the potential interactions between solar PV arrays and biodiversity - especially sensitive habitats and species.”
Q7 Do they make a lot of noise?
The transformers that convert the DC current produced by the panels into AC current for distribution do produce noise. It is not known how this noise might affect wildlife. There will also be security fencing and other security infrastructure.
Q8 Will the Council spray the area with chemicals and weedkiller?
If chemical are used for cleaning the panels they would contaminate the land. The fields are currently topped to control weeds; these may need to be sprayed annually with weed killer once the panels have been installed as topping would be difficult. Any chemicals used will flow with the surface water into the protected SSSI.
Q9 Aren’t solar panels an eyesore?
Yes. The panels will be black, reflective and raised on frames and will entirely change the look of large areas of the Country Park. The proposed area for the solar plant lies within one of the most important areas of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the scheme will cause extensive visual damage to the AONB.
Q10 Why aren’t you using the council’s land at Pebsham landfill site?
Pebsham is the obvious place to site solar arrays. Hastings Borough Council should research when the land will be stable enough to use for solar panels and look at proposals to make the site available quickly. The large solar array at Westhampnett in West Sussex is built on a landfill site.
Q11 Are there other suitable sites?
Local organisations like Energise Sussex Coast have shown what it is possible to achieve with imagination and determination.
Q12 Aren’t these sites in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and near Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs)?
Yes. And also directly adjacent to the SAC (Special Area of Conservation) and to Ancient Woodland. This means that planning policy gives these fields the highest possible levels of protection; it is highly unlikely that the scheme will be successful at the planning stage.
Q13 What do Natural England say?
Natural England have no formal say in this matter until the Council seeks planning permission. However, in recent advice, they give a clear indication of what their view at the planning stage might be: "Paragraph 170 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) highlights the need to protect and enhance valued landscapes through the planning system. As you (HBC) have acknowledged, the site is within the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Under the NPPF, this landscape should be afforded the highest status of protection in relation to the conservation and enhancement of landscape …. The NPPF states that major development within an AONB should be refused other than in exceptional circumstances”
Q13 How do I have my say?
Please write directly to your own Councillor to express your view of this scheme.
The Friends of Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve
invite you to a talk by
Trustee of the Campaign to Protect Rural England in Sussex
who will give a talk on the work of the Council both here and nationally.
Saturday 16th, March 10.30 am
All Saints Church Hall, All Saints Street, Hastings.
£4 entry, Free for members of Friends of Hastings Country Park
Further information from Janet Armour on 01424 715556
Friends of Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve condemn Hastings Council’s “reckless” refusal to listen to advice from Natural England on solar power plan.
The Friends of Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve have dubbed Hasting Council “reckless” in refusing to fully consider the available advice from Natural England before spending money on a business study for two solar power installations in the Country Park.
The Friends group, which consists of over 160 local residents, has previously expressed its concern at the decision by the Council’s Cabinet to fund a business study to see whether there is a financial case for building solar panels covering 10 acres of the Park.
That Council decision was made dependent on it first getting advice from Natural England, as the national regulator for protected landscapes such as the Country Park. Natural England has responded to the Council and made a number of powerful warning points about the plan (see copy of advice below in an email from Natural England dated 18th January). It suggested that the Council make use of its Discretionary Advice Service to review the likely environmental acceptability of the plan in more detail. The Council is however still pushing ahead spending £80,000, of the Council’s limited resources, on a business study.
The response from Natural England to the Council included some striking points, including quoting the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework that for areas like our Country Park “This landscape should be afforded the highest status of protection in relation to the conservation and enhancement of landscape and scenic beauty” and that “All development within Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty should be limited in scale and extent”.
Michael Moor, Chair of the Friends, commented “Although we all support the idea of alternative sources of power generation, we consider the Council’s decision to plough ahead with its business study regardless of these strong comments from Natural England as reckless. They risk wasting taxpayers money on a project which is unlikely to get past the regulator in the end. We are dismayed by this obstinate refusal by the Council to listen to inconvenient facts.”
We are delighted to invite you to a talk by local Historian Ken Brooks on Priest, philosopher, author and enthusiastic geologist Teilhard de Chardin.
The talk is on Saturday 16th February at 10:30 and will be held at All Saints Church Hall, All Saints Street, Old Town Hastings.
For further information, please contact Janet Armour 01424 715556
Andrew Blackman has today (14th January) completed a walked survey of the Country Park - please see the attached map. On it he has marked in black every point from which the solar farm will be visible from a footpath. It will be seen from the East Hill in the west, to the Firehills in the east.
He has been scrupulously over-conservative in compiling the map - he has marked only points from which he can actually see the grass of the area to be covered with panels. Clearly once the shiny, black, elevated panels are in place they will be visible from a much wider area.
Andrew has visited each of these viewpoints myself and is more than happy to take others to any one of them. Please feel free to share the map with anyone you think may be interested, or on social media. . here to edit.
10 acres of Solar Panels in Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve
Hastings Borough Council has started the process which could lead to the building of 10 acres of ground mounted solar panels in Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve.
The Borough’s Cabinet decided on 7th January to spend £80,000 to go ahead with developing the proposal. The land identified for this industrial style development is at Place Farm in the centre of The Nature Reserve.
A special “thank you” to those members who came along to the meeting; the substantial numbers attending demonstrated the strong feeling against the proposal.
Following the Hastings Cabinet meeting I said in our press release:
“Both Conservative and Labour members of Hastings Council Cabinet recognised that the proposed site was in a designated Local Nature Reserve, within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and directly adjacent to a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation. I was shocked that the majority party still voted in favour of spending £80,000 to further investigate the proposal with the additional recommendation that Natural England should be consulted first.”
We all appreciate the importance of renewable energy. However, the Country Park is described in the opening words of The Councils Development Management plan, adopted in 2015, as being “Hastings' area of true countryside – and it is a very special area of countryside. … This is an area where the natural environment is of paramount importance”. The Council’s proposals would be a violation of this principle.
Our fight to keep the Country Park, which we love, as an area where the natural environment is of paramount importance has to continue.
Thank you for your support.
If you would like to be involved in this campaign please let me know.
With best wishes for 2019,