From: Julia Hilton, Secretary, Hastings and Rye Green Party, The Ridge, Hastings
I welcome the council’s commitment to creating local renewable energy and in fact Hastings Green Party has been urging the council to declare a climate emergency and commit to making Hastings carbon neutral by 2030.
But we have serious reservations about the siting of 10 acres of solar panels in our much-loved Hastings Country Park. Across the country solar farms have been built on brownfield and landfill sites, along motorways and on low grade agricultural land such as that at Upper Wiltings Farm – the other site proposed – but few if any have been permitted in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty such as Hastings Country Park.
Recently Peter Chowney gave his support for Hastings making a bid for UNESCO world heritage status. How does this square with siting a solar farm on the cliff tops?
We also have grave concerns about yet again the complete lack of any prior consultation with local people. Have even the Management Forum, who have overall responsibility for running the country park, been consulted? Surely it makes sense to sound out all the bodies that would have to be consulted on such a scheme before committing £80,000 feasibility studies.
At the very least a conversation with Natural England, who will be a key decider in whether the plans can go ahead. I am glad to say that Councillor Peter Chowney added this commitment to the proposal at the cabinet meeting.
We need to come together as a town to decide how we fight climate breakdown and where and if we use solar farms needs to be part of that discussion.
A local forum could discuss the pros and cons. Hastings Green Party has produced an open letter calling on the council to declare a climate emergency, with one of its key requirements to convene a Citizens’ Assembly to generate local ideas for combating climate breakdown. We urge everyone to sign this letter which is available at https://www.segreens.com/hastings_climate_emergency.
HBC also has an opportunity over the next year to work with our local Community Energy Co-op, Energise Sussex Coast to pre-register solar roofs on public and community buildings that can still benefit from the feed in tariff and contribute in the longer term to shared energy networks.
Renewable energy is a huge opportunity to work together as a community to create a safe, affordable and secure locally-owned energy supply. One large roof like Ore College will provide 0.25 MW of power and you can buy shares in an energy co-op to help make that happen.
It should be possible in the next year to find 2MW of roof space across the town instead of industrialising the country park – for example, various industrial estates and sites like the Conquest Hospital.
There is a danger that by siting solar farms on a precious area of outstanding natural beauty such as Hastings Country Park, people will be alienated from the whole debate around our response to climate breakdown.