LETTER: Deep concern about energy strategy

We wish to voice our deep concern regarding Santon’s energy strategy for the North Street development.

In its Sustainability Statement in March 2015, Santon referred to a substantial government grant that would be used by the end of summer 2015 to assess the viability of a water-based heat pump system, which would heat the 15-acre development using the River Ouse.

However, recent dialogue with Santon and Lewes District Council has revealed that, despite £63,000 in cash being available since December 2014 from the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s Heat Networks Development Unit (HNDU), no work has taken place and no consultants have been commissioned to conduct the report.

In addition, we have assessed all Santon’s current energy proposals for this development. Four of their original energy proposals fail to meet national low-carbon targets. Other renewable technology options that would meet low-carbon targets, including bio-mass and on-site generated solar PV/thermal, have not been considered at all.

Lewes District Council, supported by Santon, has wasted nearly 12 months of critical time on this issue. While we support water-based heat pump technology in principle, the concept is very new, and there is only one working scheme in the UK. The viability of this technology using the Ouse has to be determined at an early stage.

We can only conclude that Santon’s stated objective of completing the study by summer 2015 was for political purposes only. Clive Wilding of Santon has also recently stated that: “heating forms a very small part of delivering lower carbon development”, further casting doubt over Santon’s credibility. We are deeply concerned that, unless Santon makes an outright commitment to a low-carbon heating network, and offers a clear fall-back technology if water-source heat pumps are not viable, the current development plans will lock the site of 400+ homes into fossil fuels for the whole of its lifetime, which is totally at odds with the UK’s aim of reducing carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.

The South Downs National Park’s own draft local plan stipulates that the Park should support appropriate renewable energy schemes with the aim of meeting Government climate change targets (Policy 56); and that for the North Street site specifically an on-site renewable energy strategy will be required to ensure sustainable zero carbon development is delivered (Section 8.76). With this in mind, we urge the South Downs National Park Authority to consider carefully whether Santon’s energy proposals as they currently stand are compatible with its own policies.

Paul Bellack, Liz Mandeville, Ollie Pendered, Nick Rouse and Chris Rowland – Ovesco

Stewart Boyle – One Planet Media

Daniel Holloway – DH Solar

Howard Johns – Southern Solar

Neil Williams – sustainability consultant