Have you heard of the ‘Sea of Plastic’ that surrounds the Spanish city of El Ejido? It’s on the southern coast of Spain opposite Morocco, and shows what happens when commercial interests take over the countryside.
I was there with Catherine Ebeling—bestselling author of diet and health books—and I am an environmental activist, and so for the two of us, the idea of greenhouses seemed quaint and healthy, at first. It was like: “Look at that, greenhouses, what a great way to create sustainability and locally grown food.” But as we motored along E-15—through the desert valley and then finally into the cities in and around Campo Hermoso—the landscape changed dramatically. It went from a view of the beautiful azure Mediterranean Sea with gently sloping hills and mountains, to patches of white plastic here and there, expanding to greater and greater expanses of white plastic, until it became almost solid white plastic covering the landscape as far as the eye could see, blotting out everything.
Explore the area via Google Maps and you’ll see just how extensive this is. It’s all for production of the salad crops that we love to eat all year round, so the argument is probably that this is a good thing. Much like the argument for Cleve Hill Solar Park is – “solar is good, so this proposal must be good’.
The reality is different – once it starts it will be almost impossible to stop. If Cleve Hill Solar Park gets the go ahead then it will set a precedent that you can be sure other profit-oriented companies will follow.
Kent is already becoming covered in plastic polytunnels and greenhouses like Thanet Earth, but must the Garden of England continue to be smothered in industrialised schemes such as this?
And what is Kent County Council doing about this? The vision in their Kent Environment Strategy [large PDF opens new window] strategy says:
Kent’s unique, rich and diverse environment provides significant benefits to the county’s economy and the health and wellbeing of its residents. It is one of the most wildlife-rich counties in the UK; a result of its varied geology, 350 mile coastline, landscape history, southerly location and proximity to the continent. Its high quality, diverse landscapes, seascapes, resources and assets are valued by residents, business and visitors alike. Protecting and enhancing these assets supports the visitor economy and attracts inward investment, supporting sustainable growth and developing new markets whilst improving the health and wellbeing of residents (and society as a whole).
Make sure you are fully informed about the proposed scheme – it doesn’t have to go ahead. And please engage with the 2nd phase public consultation from 31 May to 13 July with public meetings in the middle of June. We’ve put the dates on Facebook as events for easy access.