Sustainable energy co-op company Energise Sussex Coast, which partners Hastings Borough Council (HBC) in pursuing the latter’s net zero carbon target, has filed a formal letter of objection to the plans lodged by Seachange Sussex for development of a commercial site at North Queensway. The reason – according to Energise, the proposed provision of heating by gas boiler rather than renew-able energy flies in the face of
the Council’s aim of promoting Hastings as a pioneering low carbon town. 

Seachange, whose board of directors no longer includes HBC leader Kim Forward – see here – but has been joined recently by Cllr Nick Bennett, Lead Member for Resources and Climate Change on East Sussex County Council, has been awarded £3.5 million pounds of public investment funds to build over 4,000 square metres of
light industrial units at North Queensway. It is applying to HBC for planning permission. The project has already come under fire from Natural England, Sussex Wildlife Trust and nearly two hundred other objectors concerned at the potential effect of such development on the adjoining nature reserve at Marline Valley. Now Energise has branded it an “unnecessary, unsustainable and environmentally damaging proposal”, and calls on the Council planners to “avoid public exposure and embarrassment” that would arise if they consent to it.

The element of Seachange’s application which draws Energise’s particular fire is its Sustainability Statement, lodged with other documents in April. This argued that using gas boilers would ensure that the scheme was optimally efficient whilst minimising the emission of pollutants including carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide. 

It is described by Energise as making “a number of misleading and inaccurate claims”. Seachange is accused of over-inflating the prospective costs of supplying energy from solar roof panels and failing to recognise the comparative carbon efficiency of heat pumps over gas boilers. 

Energise points out that the government has, for reasons of its own zero-carbon commitment, brought forward a ban on gas installations for new builds from 2025 to 2023. How is continued reliance on gas compatible with HBC’s declaration of climate emergency? 

Protest rally

In the meantime, objectors will be staging a protest rally this Sunday (8th August) at the development site off Queensway, organised by Seachangewatch, the pressure group which monitors the activities of Seachange. The rally will start at 2pm, feature several speakers, and offer a guided tour of the nature reserve.

Co-ordinator Andrea Needham said “Seachange Sussex has been given £3.5m of public money for this destructive project and is utterly ignoring the calls from Natural England to take steps to protect Marline Valley. We are calling on Hastings Borough Council to refuse the planning application, which threatens yet another of our precious green spaces. It is also completely unsustainable, in a location very difficult to reach except by car, and with the proposed units all to be heated by gas boilers. Hastings Council has declared a climate emergency; if it now grants permission for this biodiversity-reducing, climate change-inducing project, the hollowness of that declaration will be exposed once and for all.”

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