Published: 06:00, 13 January 2021
Construction of the UK's biggest solar farm is planned to begin this year - but not before finishing touches to the controversially-approved scheme are confirmed.
But the firm behind it, Cleve Hill Solar Park Limited, now gives a much more vague timescale - suggesting work installing the 880,000 panels will not begin until nearer the end of 2021.
Bosses, who say there have been no delays as a result of the Covid pandemic, have said this week they have a target of "beginning construction this year".
Focus is currently centred on finalising the full detailed design of the development which was rubber-stamped by the government last May despite immense opposition.
When work on the £450 million scheme is set in motion, it will be conducted over two phases.
The first would take 18 months to complete - including the construction of the solar farm and a habitat management area.
Phase two would see the construction of the huge energy storage facility - which is essentially a huge battery generating electricity for the site.
It is planned to become operational in 2023, but is reliant on work starting sooner rather than later.
A spokesman for the developers said: "We have begun undertaking the important process of developing the detailed design of Cleve Hill Solar Park.
"The detailed design is important for us to be able to begin discharging the further requirements needed to help us achieve our target of beginning construction this year.
"As part of our Development Consent Order, there are a large number of planning requirements which must be fulfilled before construction can commence.
"These requirements involve us working closely with expert organisations, such as Natural England, Kent Fire and Rescue Service, Health and Safety Executive, the Environment Agency, and the local councils."
Cleve Hill is a joint venture by industry specialists Hive Energy and Wirsol Energy, who claim it will bring £1 million a year in revenue to local authorities and create new jobs and other economic benefits.
The firm says it has kept nearby residents updated on the current situation.
The site is perceived as an important factor in the UK's vision to have net-zero emissions economy by 2050.