The examination into the proposed giant Cleve Hill Solar Plant and Battery Storage has now finished and, after 6 months, it is impossible to predict the outcome of this examination. However, what is certain is that, as an ever greater group of campaigners, we have attempted to affect the outcome of the examination rather than leaving anything to chance.
GREAT (Graveney Rural Environment Action Team) came into being about 2 years ago following a call from the Parish Council. At that stage the plans about the proposals were rather vague, but concerning nevertheless, as the whole of the marshes would be wiped out by nearly a million huge solar panels.
The support from Richard Knox-Johnston from the Kent Campaign for the Protection of Rural England gave us the confidence initially to oppose the developers. This support increased incrementally following awareness raising, distribution of leaflets and questionnaires, local media support, fundraising and many more promotional activities. Helen Whately, the Green Party, the Labour Party, the Faversham Creek Society, Swale Borough Council and the Faversham Society and many, many other organisations and individuals have been vital in providing invaluable and loyal support.
It has been an amazing journey, culminating in the National Infrastructure Planning Inspectorate examination. Who could have predicted that locally there were 2 experts on battery storage (and one who was involved in the first moon landing)? Or that there was an eel expert, an agricultural classification professional, a qualified and experienced ornithologist , a sheep grazing expert and many, many more individuals with respected views and opinions…
The developers spent around £2 million in defending their proposal. GREAT spent around 1% of this budget BUT the knowledge, experience, skills and expertise of individuals was unbelievable and invaluable and priceless– together we put up the fight of our lives, even if it felt like David and Goliath at times!
So, where are we now?
The examination has finished and a recommendation will be made to the Secretary of State. But who will this be and what importance will the new ruling party place on protecting the environment? Will they agree that Cleve Hill is not the right site for testing the world’s largest battery storage? Can they live with the potential risk to human life and the destruction of wildlife and nature?
Our fight is not over yet. We will now be asking for a review of the environmental impact on the countryside caused by solar and battery. And, should the proposals be accepted, we will fight them on the beaches and the marshes because the proposed development is far too large. It would industrialise the environment and there are better places to put solar and battery which does not harm wildlife and nature. This proposal would destroy communities and a valued landscape, loved and used by thousands of people.
GREAT’s wish and hope for the New Year is a firm refusal of the proposal.
Thank you for your support during this campaign. We will be discussing our strategy for the period up to the decision in early January and will let you know the outcome of that. We hope we can count on your continued support.
We wish you a very happy Christmas and a happy and healthy 2020.
Lut and Marie