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.”