The Green Party is opposing Hastings Borough Council’s plans to build a 2MW solar farm in the heart of a local nature reserve.
The council owns Hastings Country Park, a nature reserve spanning 345 hectares from the Old Town to Pett Beach, East Sussex.
The council has described the park as “one of the foremost coastal nature reserves in the UK”, and its own website describes the park as critical to wildlife conservation:
“It is difficult to underestimate the importance of the site to wildlife conservation on a national, international and local context. The site is an outstanding area for birdwatching with many species breeding throughout the various habitats,” it states.
The council has commissioned Public Power Solutions, owned by Swindon Borough Council, to undertake initial feasibility work. PPS has ruled out a site outside of the Country Park, leaving two potential sites within the nature reserve as the only remaining options.
Julia Hilton, who represents the Greens in Hastings, said the party strongly supports renewables – but not in the middle of a public nature reserve.
“Obviously the Green Party is in favour of increasing the supply of renewable energy,” she wrote in the Hastings Observer. “However, it has to be in the right place, and this is very far from the right place. It feels like tokenism, the council slapping a solar farm in the country park and then claiming to be acting on the climate crisis.”
The party wants the council to instead install solar across its own building stock, and urge housing associations and local businesses to take the same approach.
Hastings Borough Council has submitted its plans to Natural England. It points out that there are other solar farms in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and to studies that show PV farms can enhance biodiversity.
The council aims to be carbon neutral by 2030 and says it wants 30 per cent of the town’s power to come from sustainable sources by that point. It also needs income from solar schemes to pay for front line services following years of deep budget cuts. Hastings is the most deprived local council area in the South East, and the 13th most deprived of 347 in England.