Hastings Observer Column - 7 June

Protecting our environment and natural resources is an important issue for many people, and it is for me also. Here in Hastings, we are fortunate to have our stunning country park and our beautiful beaches – we are certainly not short of environmental wonders!

At the heart of developing a sustainable environmental policy is starting early with education. Luckily, we have excellent examples of that within our communities.

Last month, Brede Primary School won the Salvation Army’s countywide ‘Recycle with Michael’ competition to encourage recycling in schools. The school collected 0.37 tonnes of unwanted clothes and shoes, the largest donation of goods per student of all the schools that took part across the region.

Earlier this year, Baird Primary Academy won the East Sussex District award for Best Nature Conservation School. They have now been granted funding by Tesco to build an outdoor classroom and improve their outdoor learning facilities.

But we can’t just rely on the younger generation to care for the environment – we all need to do our bit: The Government is committed to being the UK's greenest ever, and has established a 25-Year Plan to Improve the Environment to help achieve this goal. Carbon emissions have fallen by 42 per cent since 1990 and we recently went coal-free for over 2 weeks, the longest period since the Victorian times. Britain's share of electricity generated from renewables has doubled since 2009 and Ministers are determined to ensure we become a world leader in the new green economy.

Closer to home, Hastings Borough Council have set aside £80,000 of funding to move ahead with proposals to build solar energy farms. As a former Climate Change Secretary of State, I understand the huge importance of encouraging the production of renewable energy through resources like solar panels However, HBC are looking to build solar farms at three sites in Crowhurst and Fairlight, with two of the three proposed sites being within Hastings Country Park. This is simply not the right place to put them so I am pleased nearly 1500 constituents have signed my petition to “Say No to Solar Panels in Hastings Country Park”.

But I am not going to oppose this plan without offering an alternative, which is why I will be visiting better sites for solar panels over the summer and making the case to Hastings Borough Council. Ore College has brilliantly installed 1,000 solar panels on their campus and we should start by following their example.