Published: 11:14, 10 July 2020
| Updated: 11:53, 10 July 2020
Opponents against approved plans to build the UK's biggest solar farm in the Kent countryside have decided not to take legal action - paving the way for the project to soon begin.
Top advisers to Swale Borough Council have this week concluded that launching a costly judicial review against the government's decision to rubber-stamp Cleve Hill Solar Park would not work.
It means the construction of 880,000 solar panels and a lithium battery storage plant the size of 20 football pitches in Graveney, between Faversham and Whitstable, will not be delayed by lengthy legal processes.
Energy Secretary Alok Sharma gave the seal of approval to the highly-controversial £450 million scheme two months ago despite scores of objections.
Campaigners have since been poring over documents in preparation to launch a high court review into the decision.
But after consulting with experts, bosses at Swale council have conceded such action would not be successful.
A statement released by the authority this morning reads: "The opinion received is that there is no basis upon which the decision can be legally challenged. The council was extremely disappointed with the decision, which was a great shock to local residents.
"This development will industrialise a site the size of Faversham, which is in a very sensitive location. Although the council understands the need to generate renewable energy at scale, it is equally important to protect our few remaining wild places."
Developers now need to submit revised proposals on several requirements they are obliged to meet following the planning inquiry. They include management plans for battery safety, landscape and biodiversity and traffic.
However, the main crux of the application to transform 900 acres of farm and marshland into a solar farm is now settled and the prospect of judicial review from the council has been diminished.
Cllr Tim Valentine (Green), cabinet member for environment, said: “Although the development will go ahead, there is still a lot that local people can do to influence the final proposals and reduce the negative impact as much as possible.
“At the planning hearings I was enormously impressed by the quality of the evidence and the range of expertise that the local community produced.
“I hope all interested parties will engage with the consultations on the final requirements and make the development the best it can be.”