The proposed Cleve Hill Solar Park is a development to build an industrialised solar power station on our beautiful coastal countryside. The application was submitted to the government’s national Planning Inspectorate on 16th November 2018. But it’s not a done deal – this still has to go through a very detailed national planning examination, and you can be involved.
Why oppose a solar park?
We all agree that solar is a better source of energy than things like coal, oil, gas and nuclear. So you may wonder why we are opposed to this development? Surely it is good for the environment and should just happen? Here are our key objections:
- Cleve Hill Solar Farm, if built, would be the biggest solar farm in Europe on an area of more than 950 acres
- Bigger than the nearby town of Faversham and the equivalent of 500 football pitches
- Would comprise of 880,000 solar panels up to 3.9 meters high – tall enough to park a double decker bus underneath
- Laying the panels in an east-west alignment, rather than the usual solar farm design of a north-south alignment, allows them to laid closer together, increasing the negative impact on wildlife and, in effect, creating a vast solar panel lid of a kind usually found in desert landscapes.
The area proposal is hugely important for wildlife
- Currently it is designated as valued landscape [i] and is productive arable land, surrounded on three sides by designated nature conservation areas. [ii]
- It sustains thousands of migrating birds and is recognised as providing important feeding and nesting ground for many threatened species, including Brent geese, reed-buntings, nesting skylarks, and marsh harriers. It is recognised by RSPB and Kent Wildlife Trust as “providing important connectivity and habitat between the sites already protected.” [iii]
- It also houses water voles to common lizards, earwigs to bats, dormice and orchids.
It will destroy a much valued landscape
- Graveney Marshes is much loved by the public as a rare, tranquil and unspoilt area in the overcrowded south east.
- The Saxon Shore Way, which attracts many walkers and nature lovers, passes along the sea wall at the edge of the proposed site and currently provides a beautiful view over the marshes.
It’s in the wrong place
- Why on arable land right next to nature reserves?
- Why not on disused airfields or decommissioned industrial sites such as coal power stations?
It’s the wrong type of development
- Solar works better at local scale; for example on the roofs of houses or commercial developments or on new build homes – REF or SOURCE?
At what cost?
- The developers stated aim is to produce the lowest cost energy in the UK – but at what cost? For them this is not about green energy but making the most profit. What corners will they cut to make this happen?
- Lost opportunity – the Environment Energy had a plan to allow water back onto the area as part of managed realignment programme turning it into even more of a haven for wildlife.
i The phrase ‘valued landscape’ was introduced in March 2012 with the publication of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which refers to “protecting and enhancing valued landscapes”.
ii It is surrounded by habitats designated for their wildlife value at a National and International level (shown in green on the map below). ‘The Swale’ has three levels of designation: Site of Special Scientific Interest, a national designation; Special Protection Area, a European designation; and Ramsar (a wetland of international importance designated under the Ramsar Convention). The Swale Estuary is also a Marine Conservation Zone (a national designation)
NEEDS IMAGE HERE
ii According to Kent Wildlife Trust, the proposed area of development is ‘functionally linked’ to these designated areas, and its loss may have an impact on the species in question.”
iii The Environment Agency’s stated long terms plans are to restore the area to coastal marshes to help prevent flooding of the local towns. Campaigners point out that the Cleve Hill Solar Park’s plans, which involve maintaining the sea wall, conflict with these plans. “They’re taking on the role of the Environment Agency. This is not something Cleve Hill should be doing. They’re not experts in flood defences, the Environment Agency is and we don’t really want to put our security into the hands of an organisation that is about destroying nature.” says Michael Wilcox, Chair of Graveney Rural Environment Action Group.