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Government will now decide vast Cleve Hill Solar Park scheme near Graveney

Plans for the UK's biggest solar farm have been submitted to the Government for approval - after having 70 acres of panels removed from the proposal.

But objectors say the reduction for the proposals at Graveney, near Faversham, is “negligible” and it will still "industrialise"’ a vast swathe of countryside close to a site of special scientific interest.

The £450 million Cleve Hill Solar Park would stretch from the banks of Faversham Creek to Seasalter Road, bordered to the north by the Saxon Shore Way footpath along the Swale.

Video: A planning application has been submitted for the UK's biggest solar farm

It is expected to provide enough electricity to power around 91,000 homes, if it gets the go-ahead from the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

The latest plans also reveal the proposed huge electricity storage compound would cover 20 acres and house what could be the world’s biggest battery facility.

The applicant claims energy storage on site will help deliver more renewable energy to homes when there is demand. allowing consumers to benefit from using electricity at times when it is cheaper.

In June, the company said the site of the development had been expanded to almost 1,000 acres to increase ‘habitat management areas’ which would be set aside for wildlife and to help manage flood risk to the north.

Graveney Marsh
Graveney Marsh

The applicant now says it has now reduced the developed area by almost 5% - from one million solar panels to around 880,000 - following pre-application consultations with the community and environmental studies.

But Michael Wilcox from Graveney Rural Environmental Action Team said: “The reduction in solar panels and increase in wildlife area is just drop in the ocean in the great scheme of things.

“This is still vast industrialisation in the wrong place, chosen by the developer because it was a much cheaper option and convenient for the existing London Array connection to the grid.”

He also questioned new information about the battery and the ‘import’ of electricity.

“Why is Cleve Hill Solar Park applying for the facility to import energy? Their proposal is to be a low-carbon energy generator – as their website says: to “generate renewable power through photovoltaic panels, providing clean power to UK homes”.

The solar panels will be expected to provide enough electricity to power around 91,000 homes
The solar panels will be expected to provide enough electricity to power around 91,000 homes

“We can understand how generated energy needs to be exported to the National Grid.

"The question is how will importing energy from the National Grid into their battery help CHSP to achieve low-carbon energy generation?”

The company has now submitted an application for a Development Consent Order (DCO) to Energy Secretary Greg Clark for a Development Consent Order (DCO) for the site.

The proposal will be examined by the Planning Inspectorate at a public inquiry which will then make a recommendation to the Secretary of State.

The proposed Cleve Hill solar park
The proposed Cleve Hill solar park

Mr Wilcox urged those wishing to have their views considered to ensure they register them and the option to speak at the future public hearing with the Planning Inspectorate during the 28-day registration period, which is expected to open mid-December.

For more information and updates, go to the Graveney Rural Environment Action Team Facebook page.

The link to the Planning Inspectorate can also be found on the applicant’s page, www.clevehillsolar.com.

A final decision is not expected to be made by the Secretary of State until 2019/20.

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