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.”