The Friends of Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve have dubbed the borough council ‘reckless’ over its solar panel plan.
The group said the authority is ‘refusing to fully consider 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 more than 160 residents, has previously expressed its concern at the decision by the council’s cabinet to fund the study to see whether there is a financial case for building solar panels covering 10 acres of the park.
That decision was made dependent on it first getting advice from Natural England, as the national regulator for protected landscapes.
Natural England has responded to the council and made a number of warning points about the plan, suggesting the authority make use of its Discretionary Advice Service to review the likely environmental acceptability of the plan in more detail.
Natural England wrote to the authority on January 18 saying that the country park 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’.
But the Friends said the council is still pushing ahead to spending £80,000 on a business study.
The group met last Thursday (March 7) at the White Rock Hotel to discuss the council’s plans.
Michael Moor, chairman of the Friends, said: “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.”
Earlier this year, Hastings and Rye MP, Amber Rudd launched a petition against the council’s proposals which can be found by clicking here.
A council spokeswoman said: “The cabinet has committed to spending up to £80,000 to develop its ideas for solar panels. The feasibility study is to find out if there is an environmental and economic case for using two farm fields, about 10 acres, at the country park for land mounted solar panels.”