The threat of a colossal solar farm at Cleve Hill: learn more this weekend

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

The threat of a vast solar power station on the North Kent Marshes near Faversham will come into focus at an event on Sunday (December 9).
Richard Knox-Johnston, CPRE Kent vice-president, will join local MP Helen Whately and Andrew Bowles, leader of Swale Borough Council, in giving speeches during the information day, which runs from 10am-2pm.
The event, at Faversham Guildhall, is being hosted by Graveney Rural Environment Action Team (GREAT) and will give you the chance to find out more about the plans by Cleve Hill Solar Park Ltd, which would cover an eyewatering 1,000 acres – potentially the largest development of its kind in the country.
The speeches start from 11am, while the main topics of the day will be:

  • How is this different from a typical solar park?
  • What will be the impact on the environment and wildlife?
  • What do our local politicians think?
  • When will a decision be made?
  • How can you get involved and have your say?
  • The information day is being held at The Guildhall, Market Place, Faversham ME13 7AG, from 10am-2pm on Sunday, December 9.
  •  For more on this story, see here and here 
  •  For more on GREAT, see here 

Cleve Hill, plans for the UK’s largest solar farm… and our response

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

The damaging proposal for the country’s largest solar farm, at Cleve Hill near Faversham, has reached the second public consultation phase and CPRE has taken the opportunity to clarify its strong opposition to the project.
Our response totals almost 1,700 words, but our primary concerns lie in the following areas (more may be added after scrutiny of the Development Consent Order application):

  • Damage to landscape including tranquillity and dark skies
  • Inadequate assessment of flood risk and potential conflict with the Environment Agency’s ‘managed retreat’ strategy
  • Impacts on soil microclimate and hydrology
  • Ecological impacts
  • Damage to heritage assets caused by construction traffic
  • Loss of agricultural land
  • Threats to animal welfare

CPRE Kent recognises the challenges of climate change and the government’s commitment to meeting carbon emission targets but does not consider the renewable-energy benefits of the scheme proposed by developers Hive Energy and Wirsol – which has already grown from an initial 890 acres to 1,000 – outweigh the damage it would cause the North Kent Marshes.
We also question the sustainability of reliance on lithium-ion technology, with its own remote but concerning ecological impacts.
In short, the solar farm proposal is on a wholly unacceptable scale and in entirely the wrong location; it carries a disturbing catalogue of harmful impacts and it is to be hoped that the plans are ultimately stopped in their tracks.
Read our response to the consultation: Cleve Hill II Consultation Response (CPRE)

‘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.

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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