Is Hastings Country Park safe in the council’s hands?

Your letters to the newspaper
Your letters to the newspaper

From: Michael Moor, Chairman, Friends of Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve, The Croft, Hastings

The Friends of Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve welcome your Editorial on January 11 which opposed the council’s plan to build two solar farms in the Country Park. As the editorial concluded: “What’s the good in investing in environmentally friendly energy sources if they damage the environment in the first place?”

In coming to a final view about this plan over the next few months, the community needs to be confident about the council’s motives. It is significant that the report which the Cabinet considered earlier this month was set in the context of its ability “to make a significant contribution to the objectives of the (council’s) Income Generation strategy”, not of environmental objectives.

Indeed, the report did not make it clear that two of the three proposed sites were actually in the Country Park which is a Local Nature Reserve, part of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and right next to a site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Special Area of Conservation.

We all support the idea of generating energy from renewable sources for the benefit of the environment.

But this was not the case the council was making until the plan began to attract significant opposition from local people. Then the council began to apply a veneer of greenwash to cover its real motives for the plan, that of income generation from an industrial scale plant.

We all understand that, in these difficult times for local authority finances, the council needs to generate extra funds.

But it owes it to its electors to be honest and open about how it achieves that and to respect its own and national planning policies.

We hoped that, after the Rocklands fiasco, the council would treat its stewardship of the Country Park, a vital community asset, with greater sensitivity. Apparently not.

This leads us to a painful question: is the Country Park safe in the council’s hands? As your editorial said, might this plan be a dangerous precedent for further development in an environmentally sensitive area?