Green energy study commissioned by councillors

Solar panels
Solar panels

A study into developing green energy projects is due to be commissioned by Wealden District Council.

The authority’s cabinet agreed to fund a large-scale study looking at investing in large-scale solar panelling, electric car charging and other green energy schemes in the area at a meeting on Wednesday (July 11).

The study, expected to cost the council up to £20,000 to complete, is also likely to look at how green energy schemes can be incorporated into the development of the Vicarage Field site in Hailsham and the wider town centre regeneration plans.

Council leader Bob Standley said: “To me this report just lays out what the council will do to examine all the options.

“We are not actually making a decision to go down one route or the other, we are deciding to look at all the available options.

“We are looking at both from a power generation and climate change point of view and also seeing whether there are opportunities for us to actually make a contribution to reducing pressures to our council tax and revenue funds.”

During the meeting some cabinet members raised concerns about what could follow on from the study.

Roy Galley, cabinet member for economic development and waste management,  said he would have reservations about setting up a ‘municipal energy company’ and asked if there was the potential for wasting council funds by duplicating work.

Cllr Galley said: “The only thing which concerns me is that lots of councils are now on this bandwagon. East Sussex County Council are taking energy initiatives, despite the fact they’ve not got money for anything.

“So I worry that we might overlap in some way and duplicate work.”

In reply, Cllr Standley said the council was likely to discuss any future plans with East Sussex County Council and other authorities in the region before any commitments were made.

He said: “We will make sure, because some of these projects are quite large capital investments, that if any of those did come to fruition then we would work with partners. There might be benefits of working together.”

Graham Wells, portfolio holder for corporate assets, meanwhile raised concerns about how the study would be considered in connection with the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

He said: “I want to point out that over 60 per cent of what is the seventh largest district in the country is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

“So I hope it will be a really serious look when it comes to large-scale solar, i.e. panels on fields.

“We need to be conscious of protecting the very nature of Wealden and its AONB.”