If you’re on this website, you know about the proposal to dump a massive industrial energy facility onto a greenfield site that is part of Kent’s coastal countryside. This is a private profit-making scheme, but the developers like to imply that this is a government project….
- National planning applies to private schemes
It is so massive that it qualifies under the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects scheme. The developers repeat this phrase and make it bold on their publicity materials – but this does not make it a government project.
- This is about making profit for shareholders
They talk about the UK’s goals to reduce carbon emissions, whilst omitting to mention that their commercial company goal is to make profit out of industrialising the countryside.
- Paying tax is not an investment
They even suggest that they will contribute investment to Swale and Kent. What they mean is that they will pay local business rates – a taxes that is difficult to dodge and therefore safe to make claims about. There’s no information about how much corporation tax will be paid.
Selective references to government strategy
But hang on! This is supposed to be a green initiative isn’t it? Why haven’t the developers linked to the government’s 25 Year Green plan?
Published at a similar time to the other two documents, and described by GOV.UK as ‘sitting alongside two other important government strategies’ the plan entitled A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment sets out the Government’s goals for improving the environment, within a generation, and leaving it in a better state than we found it.
The other two strategies don’t really have much relevance to the project:
- Having searched the Industrial Strategy, I can find one mention of solar in 256 pages, (describing how universities have worked with businesses on its use). There are a few more mentions of renewable energy (seven) but these focus on offshore technologies.
- The Clean Growth Strategy is more relevant, highlighting how cheap solar is becoming, and stressing how much progress has already been made.
- In the policies and proposals section (page 99) the government wants to see “more people investing in solar without government support and are currently considering options for our approach to small scale low carbon generation beyond 2019”.
A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment
The Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan has much to say of relevance. Here’s just a pointers from the ‘at a glance: summary of targets‘:
Thriving plants and wildlife
- creating or restoring 500,000 hectares of wildlife-rich habitat outside the protected site network, focusing on priority habitats as part of a wider set of land management changes providing extensive benefits
- taking action to recover threatened, iconic or economically important species of animals, plants and fungi, and where possible to prevent human induced extinction or loss of known threatened species in England and the Overseas Territories
Reducing the risks of harm from environmental hazards
We will reduce the risk of harm to people, the environment and the economy from natural hazards including flooding, drought and coastal erosion by:
- making sure that decisions on land use, including development, reflect the level of current and future flood risk
Using resources from nature more sustainably and efficiently
- improving our approach to soil management: by 2030 we want all of England’s soils to be managed sustainably, and we will use natural capital thinking to develop appropriate soil metrics and management approaches
Enhancing beauty, heritage and engagement with the natural environment
We will conserve and enhance the beauty of our natural environment, and make sure it can be enjoyed, used by and cared for by everyone. We will do this by:
- safeguarding and enhancing the beauty of our natural scenery and improving its environmental value while being sensitive to considerations of its heritage.
- making sure that there are high quality, accessible, natural spaces close to where people live and work, particularly in urban areas, and encouraging more people to spend time in them to benefit their health and wellbeing
- focusing on increasing action to improve the environment from all sectors of society
Achieving the goals
The plan sets out in detail how the goals will be achieved – including:
Reduce risk of harm from flooding
The 25 Year Environment Plan encourages Natural Flood Management (NFM) solutions to be implemented alongside traditional flood defences in the appropriate places. The Enviroment Agency’s ‘Evidence Directory‘ explains how this works as part of the overall flood strategy.
For the greenfield site under question, still marked on the map as Graveney Marshes and Nagden Marshes, this approach means allowing a ‘managed realignment’ which would allow the land to return to being saltmarsh.
The local flood strategy which was open for consultation over last winter notes in the summary of responses that the potential solar farm proposal conflicts with the Environment Agency’s recommendations, despite the fact that they are “required as part of legal obligations associated with the Habitat Regulations”.
Recovering nature and enhancing the beauty of landscapes
This part of the plan links to the global efforts encapsulated under Sustainable Development Goal 15, ‘Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of
terrestrial ecosystems, halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.’
The plan is very clear:
Landscapes, seascapes and coastlines are at the heart of our identity as a nation and we value them for their cultural and historical significance. Beautiful spaces boost our wellbeing through the aesthetic value they provide, and support our economy through tourism.
We want landscapes, coasts and seas to be conserved and enhanced to maximise appreciation and enjoyment, and to be more resilient in the future. However they are under ever increasing and competing pressures, for example, from climate change, pests and diseases, population growth, housing, transport and other urban development.
Specifically the plan promotes the establishment of a Nature Recovery Network which would:
comprise a suite of areas for investment in landscape or catchment-scale ecosystem restoration to ensure wildlife thrives and to provide a range of other outcomes such as carbon capture and natural flood management. Each area is likely to have a core managed primarily for environmental outcomes, within a patchwork of wider environmental improvements on more productive land. The recovery network would link, buffer and support existing areas of high wildlife or landscape value.
Connecting people with the environment to improve health and wellbeing
Again here the plan is clear on how valuable the space under threat is:
Engagement with the outdoors brings many benefits to health and well-being and offers opportunities to raise awareness about the value of nature and the challenges it faces. The evidence also shows that increasing the use of green space, even if motivated by health reasons, provides wider societal benefits such as great community cohesion and reduced social isolation.