All About Solar: your chance to join free event tackling a contentious subject

Solar farms can stir mixed emotions (pic Low Carbon)

It’s one of the countryside issues of our time: the spread of solar farms across our landscape.
The subject is brought into focus tomorrow (Thursday, April 21) in a webinar entitled All About Solar, during which CPRE’s own Richard Haynes will be speaking on the impact of solar farms on landscape and heritage setting.
Other speakers are Professor Michael Alder, who will give an overview of the Solar Campaign Alliance and discuss national food security and the biodiversity impact of solar farms, and Dr Edmund Fordham, who will “tell us all we need to know about battery storage”.
This free event begins at 7pm and you can get tickets here

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

With a swathe of the North Kent Marshes to be lost in the name of green energy, the government chooses not intervene in plans for a new coal mine

How the proposed development near Whitehaven might look (pic West Cumbria Mining)

In the week that developers announced they planned to start work later this year on the UK’s largest solar farm, at Cleve Hill, near Faversham, it might seem baffling the government has chosen not to call in proposals for a deep coal mine in north-west England.
The decision by Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, not to intervene after Cumbria County Council approved West Cumbria Mining’s application for the mine, near Whitehaven, has been roundly slated by conservation groups.
The project has drawn some 2,300 objections since 2017, including from such groups as Friends of the Earth, WWF, Greenpeace and Extinction Rebellion. On Wednesday last week (January 13), however, CCC said it had been told there would be no governmental call-in.
With coal-powered electricity generation due to end by 2024, the Cumbrian coal will be used in British and European steelmaking – a process WCM claims will cut emissions caused by the wider transport of steel.
The argument has cut no ice with environmental groups, however, which say the mine could hinder alignment of the country’s steel sector with the 2050 net-zero target.
Doug Parr, of Greenpeace UK, told The Independent: “We are in a climate emergency and in no way, shape, or form should this or any new coal mine be granted planning permission. 
“Of course, job creation is absolutely vital to communities, but we must look forward to the jobs of the 21st century, not back to those in declining industries. Robert Jenrick needs to immediately reverse his decision not to call this in and then can the project completely.”
Friends of the Earth’s Tony Bosworth agreed: “Mr Jenrick’s refusal to call in this unnecessary and climate-wrecking coal mine shows jaw-dropping inconsistency… last month the government said it would no longer support fossil fuel projects overseas.
“Allowing coal to be extracted from this proposed mine for over a quarter of a century completely undermines the government’s credibility on the climate crisis – especially ahead of the crucial UN summit later this year, which the UK is hosting.”
The government approach is also galling for those who battled Cleve Hill Solar Park, which, if it goes ahead, will industrialise almost 1,000 acres of the North Kent Marshes – an area of international importance to wildlife.
That scheme was promoted by developers, supporters and Whitehall alike as making a substantial contribution of renewable energy as the UK looked to achieve its net-zero target, so the non-intervention in the coal-mine process seems bafflingly inconsistent.
Some might think Mr Jenrick’s reported statement relating to the mine in which he said the government was “committed to giving more power to councils to make their own decisions on planning issues” was little more than him washing his hands of the wider matters.
The Cumbrian development would be the first deep coal mine to be developed in this country for 30 years should it go ahead. At Cleve Hill, meanwhile, developers are apparently concentrating on the detailed design of their solar farm.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Wind farm plan stopped in its tracks

Alok Sharma refused a Development Consent Order for the Thanet Extension Offshore Wind Farm (pic Vattenfall)

Proposals for a new wind farm off the east Kent coast have been blocked.
Alok Sharma, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, has refused a Development Consent Order for Vattenfall’s scheme for the 34-turbine Thanet Extension Offshore Wind Farm.
The developer said the new wind farm, which would have incorporated larger turbines than those already sited around much of the county’s coast, could have more than doubled the capacity of the existing 100-turbine Thanet Offshore Wind Farm.
The refusal, announced in June, centred on a potentially negative effect on the development of ports, as well as the new wind farm causing a maritime navigation risk.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

‘The worst possible place to put a solar farm’

The special landscape of Graveney Marshes would be destroyed if the Cleve Hill solar park was approved (picture by Vicky Ellis)

As if north Kent was not under enough pressure of development, monstrous plans for the country’s largest solar power station have been announced for a site on the North Kent Marshes.

The scheme, proposed by Hive Energy and Wirsol, has been named Cleve Hill Solar Park and would, if built, cover an eyewatering 890 acres of Graveney, Nagden and Cleve Marshes.

The developers say their scheme would provide power for some 110,000 homes. This would be “equivalent to the number in Swale and Canterbury combined”, according to one report in the local media; if that’s the case, it might be salient to ask where all that energy from the nearby Kentish Flats wind farm is going!

A possible capacity of 350 MW would be five times that of the UK’s current largest solar park, at Lyneham in Wiltshire, which produces 69 MW.

The colossal size of the Cleve Hill application makes it a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP), meaning the decision on whether it goes ahead will be made by Greg Clark, Secretary of State for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

The North Kent Marshes are internationally important for birds and the area being targeted by Hive Energy and Wirsol borders an extensive Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Special Protection Area (SPA) and Ramsar-designated site.

Much of the targeted site itself lies within the Natural England-designated Greater Thames Estuary Natural Area and Character Area, while almost all of it  is noted as an Area of Greatest Habitat Opportunity (enhancement) and as a Biodiversity Opportunity Area.

That’s an awful lot of titles and designations, demonstrating how important this area is wildlife… and of course for the many people who use it for walking and so many other recreational activities.

Hardly the place for the UK’s largest solar power station, you might think!

This very special landscape is enhanced by an incredible array of birdlife, particularly wildfowl and waders, while numbers of marsh harriers – a bird of prey on the brink of extinction in this country not so very long ago – are high.

Further, the Cleve Hill site adjoins two Kent Wildlife Trust reserves – Oare Marshes and South Swale – while the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds manages large chunks of the nearby Seasalter Levels.

CPRE will scrutinise this proposal in much greater detail over the coming weeks, but director Hilary Newport said: “If I was to think of the worst possible place to put a solar farm, it would be here.

“We absolutely support the principle of renewable energy, but [the panels] should be on roofs, not trashing landscapes in an astonishingly beautiful part of the North Kent Marshes.”

Monday, November 13, 2017

Communities help to plan low carbon future

Local communities have a new way to help the country meet its obligation to tackle climate change, following this month’s approval of the historic Paris Agreement [1]. With the need to develop a genuinely sustainable energy system more pressing than ever, a new consultation tool  published today [30 November] lets towns, villages and neighbourhoods shape their own genuinely sustainable local energy plans.

Published by the Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) and CPRE, it aims to bring communities together to share their passion for local landscapes with their enthusiasm for a more sustainable future.


CSE and CPRE’s new ‘Future Energy Landscapes’ approach shows that putting local people at the centre of energy planning can result in ambitious vision and targets. Through a series of participatory workshops, with visual tools and consumption calculations, communities are empowered to combine their understanding and views of their landscape with planning for energy needs Together, local planners and communities can create robust energy strategies that could deliver radical reductions in carbon emissions and enjoy genuine local backing. Continue reading

New design guide will help solar panels shine

Get them right, and they can be an attractive part of your home and lower your electricity bills. That’s the message about solar panels from CPRE and a leading building science centre, who have teamed up to prevent common design pitfalls.

The new guide and summary leaflet on solar design, today published by CPRE and BRE National Solar Centre, show how solar panels on buildings can look good whatever the structure or surrounding landscape [1,2].


Among the various design principles, we advocates the use of panels that match the size and shape of existing roof tiles. We sugges installing panels symmetrically or ensuring that panels fully cover the roof. Aimed at property owners, designers and installers, the guide and leaflet also illustrate how the sun is already helping to power an incredible range of the nation’s buildings – from homes and listed churches to greenhouses and office blocks.

Continue reading

Huge solar farm refused over landscape and heritage concerns

Good news – Maidstone Borough Council has refused an application for a 29,400 panel solar farm across 28 acres of agricultural land at Great Tong Farm.

We were concerned about the impact the site would have on the landscape and the heritage of the area – the site would be seen in views from the Greensand Ridge and was in close proximity to 23 listed buildings – including seven on Tong Farm itself.

Solar farm in Europe, photo flickr

Solar farm in Europe, photo flickr

The site lies in the Special Landscape Area of the Low Weald and Greensand Ridg and is bordered by three public rights of way. Headcorn’s built environment is 76 hectares. Proposed development would equate to 15% of this figure, increasing to 27% in conjunction with the 220 homes already granted permission on Tong Farm.

The Kent Historic Buildings Committee, part of CPRE Kent, raised concerns on the setting of heritage assets on Tong and the wider landscape including Grade 1 Ulcombe Church. The objection stated “a considerable number of buildings stand to be affected, both individually, and as a group, and we would say the total effect of the proposal on the heritage environment is substantial”.

Historic England said the solar array would cause “modest harm to the significance of these listed buildings by altering the context that explains their historical purpose”. The site would be visible from Grade 1 Ulcombe Church, classified as an “important view”.

March 1st 2016


New study maps shale and water

The BGS and EA have today released maps which show the depth and location of the important underground aquifers in England and Wales and their relationship with the shale oil and gas deposits which lie beneath them.  We welcome these maps, which contain important information that will help inform decisions over where it might be possible to safely exploit shale resources by fracking.  However, in and around Kent, the vertical separation of the aquifers and the shale which lie beneath them is only a very small part of the information that must be taken into account.

The Geology of the Weald is naturally heavily fractured as the result of ground movements in the distant past.  It is densely packed with planes of structural weakness which, if fracking were to go ahead, could well open or re-open fissures which would allow the contamination or loss of important aquifers.

In the light of recent calls to ‘cut red tape’ and lighten the burden of regulation on the oil and gas industry, we retain serious concerns over the prospect of fracking in the geologically vulnerable region which is the Weald.

See information about the maps here:

(Contains BGS materials: copyright NERC 2014)
July 3, 2014

Re-balancing the Renewables Obligation

Solar Farm Energy Production Kent

We very much welcome the announcement today of a consultation on changes to financial support for solar PV, which will re-direct support from the feed-in tariffs away from large (more than 5MW) solar generation installations and towards smaller arrays.
The Solar industry has done a great deal to drive down the costs and drive up the efficiency of solar PV generation, and this has helped drive the proliferation of large scale solar PV facilities being sited on productive agricultural land.  We believe that there is much more to be done in making the built environment more attractive to solar power generation and if these changes help achieve that, then so much to the good.

Read more here: