Cleve Hill solar farm plan: if you want to have a say, now is the time to register

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

The Planning Inspectorate last week agreed to consider proposals for the UK’s largest solar farm, on the North Kent Marshes near Faversham – and you can comment on the scheme.
Cleve Hill Solar Park Ltd’s application for a Development Consent Order that would allow it to build a 1,000-acre solar power station was accepted by the Planning Inspectorate, meaning there will now be a consultation period leading into an inquiry.
If you want to have your say on the planned Cleve Hill Solar Park, you need to register as an Interested Party – and today (Wednesday, December 19) the window for registration opened.
Your views must initially be registered in no more than 500 words by Monday, January 28.
Registration does not commit you to anything. However, if you later wish to become involved and make representation to the inquiry inspector, you must have registered during this period.
To go to the registration form, click here
This will also take you to a tab letting you view the application documents. You might, however, find them easier to navigate via Cleve Hill Solar Park Ltd’s website here (due to the size of the files, they are uploaded on a Google Drive space).
CPRE Kent will of course be registering as an Interested Party. Our final draft is yet to be completed, but we expect it to include the following concerns:

  • Damage to landscape, including tranquillity and dark skies
  • Inadequate assessment of flood risk and potential conflict with the Environment Agency’s ‘managed retreat’ strategy relating to future sea-level rise
  • Impacts on soil microclimate and hydrology
  • Ecological impacts and loss of biodiversity
  • Damage to heritage assets caused by traffic during construction and beyond the construction period
  • Loss of agricultural land
  • Threats to animal welfare

We expect to work alongside a range of groups, so if you wish to make comments via CPRE Kent please email either:

You can, of course, register as an individual to be involved in the examination of the DCO.
For more on the saga of Cleve Hill, see here and here

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

‘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

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 http://trueviagraonline.com 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