Kent Wildlife Trust’s view

Here’s what Kent Wildlife Trust think. See the full article here:

How is it different from other solar parks?

Cleve Hill Solar Park is huge. It is about five times bigger than anything else currently built or planned in the UK. Most notably it is also of a very different design to other solar developments – rather than south-facing panels, they will face east and west, meaning they can be installed much closer together. This new design is likely to increase the impacts and significantly reduce the opportunities for wildlife compared to ‘traditional’ designs.

What are Kent Wildlife Trust’s concerns?

With the information we have at present, our concerns fall into two main categories: loss of ‘functionally linked’ habitat, and direct impacts on the habitats within the development site.

Loss of ‘functionally linked’ habitat

While the development site itself has no wildlife designations, at certain times it does support species that the surrounding habitats are designated as important for. As such, it is ‘functionally linked’ to these designated areas, and its loss may have an impact on the species in question. The developers will have to undertake a ‘Habitats Regulations Assessment’ to determine the impacts on these species, what mitigation may be necessary, and ultimately demonstrate that any impacts will not be significant.

Direct impacts on habitats within the development site

It is fairly clear that there will be a significant loss of habitat for those species that rely on the open farmland in this area (e.g. skylarks). What is less clear is what impact the solar panels will have on the areas of the site that will not be lost – the ditches in particular, which are home to water voles and reed buntings, for example. As we have not seen a solar farm designed like this in the UK before, we have more questions than answers at the moment.

In addition, we are also concerned about the potential loss of connectivity, and loss of opportunity for habitat and landscape enhancement that this site provides. Such a significant area surrounded by designated habitat provides one of the best opportunities we know to restore lost coastal habitats in North Kent.