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Canterbury councillors fighting solar farm plans in Graveney

By Lydia Chantler-Hicks

Campaigners fighting plans to build Britain’s biggest solar park on the outskirts of Canterbury claim the district is already “punching six times its weight” when it comes to producing green energy.

The controversial development would see land the size of 900 football pitches covered with solar panels in Graveney - producing enough electricity to power 110,000 homes.

But city councillors Ashley Clark and Colin Spooner say the district is providing more renewable energy than the national average and the park should be built elsewhere.

Cllrs Ashley Clark and Colin Spooner who have written a letter to Greg Clark MP in opposition to the Cleve Hill Solar Park between Whitstable and Faversham. Picture: Chris Davey
Cllrs Ashley Clark and Colin Spooner who have written a letter to Greg Clark MP in opposition to the Cleve Hill Solar Park between Whitstable and Faversham. Picture: Chris Davey

The pair have written to the Energy Secretary Greg Clark, whose department will have the final say on whether the development goes ahead.

They say the production of green energy should fall evenly across the country.

“It should not be disproportionately dumped on districts that are both densely populated, and already punching way above their weight in terms of renewable energy to the National Grid,” they said.

“We are informed that the national average for renewable energy is in the order of 30%.

“With the Whitstable Offshore Wind Farm and the extensive areas in the green gap between Whitstable and Herne Bay, as well as other sites, the Canterbury City Council area alone is already contributing sufficient energy to power every home in the council districts of Canterbury and Swale combined.

"The Canterbury area alone is punching six times its weight against the national average.”

Graveney Marsh (3404755)
Graveney Marsh (3404755)

The councillors also argue it would have a negative impact on the district’s scenic beauty and physical and mental health benefits open space affords locals.

They say the proposed site is surrounded by nature conservation areas sustaining thousands of migrating birds, and the solar farm would cause a “huge blot on the landscape in an area that has been used by walkers and nature lovers since time immemorial”.

The Cleve Hill Solar Farm would stretch from the banks of Faversham Creek to Seasalter Road, with its border to the north by the Saxon Shore Way along the Swale.

Due to the 350MW capacity of the solar park exceeding 50MW, the project is classified as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP).

As such, any application comes under the Planning Act 2008 and is known as a Development Consent Order (DCO).

Solar panels like these would cover the 890-acre site
Solar panels like these would cover the 890-acre site

These applications must be made to the Planning Inspectorate, who in the case of energy-related developments, acts on behalf of the Secretary of State for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Phase two of the consultation for the proposal has just ended, with an application yet to be submitted.

A spokesman for Cleve Hill Solar Park said: “The project will provide the opportunity for dual-use of land, allowing sheep grazing and providing biodiversity benefits to land previously exposed to intensive farming practices.

“Of the total proposed site area, 53% will have solar panels. None of the project’s infrastructure will be in Canterbury, with the area of the site within Canterbury being for habitat mitigation and flood protection maintenance.”

The spokesman also pointed out the city council’s commitment to contribute to national objectives to reduce carbon emissions in its Local Plan.

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