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Solar farm plans in Faversham increase to 1,000 acres

By Anna MacSwan

A massive solar farm proposed near Faversham could be even bigger than originally feared.

As the second round of public consultation begins, the developers behind Cleve Hill Solar Park in Graveney have revealed the site would now total 1,000 acres.

Previous plans for a site of 880 acres would already have made the solar farm the UK's largest if given the go-ahead.

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Seasalter Proposed Solar Farm on Cleve and Graveney Marshes.London Array Sub Station and the MarshesPicture: Paul Amos (1221380)
Seasalter Proposed Solar Farm on Cleve and Graveney Marshes.London Array Sub Station and the MarshesPicture: Paul Amos (1221380)

The proposed development would stretch from the banks of Faversham Creek to Seasalter Road, bordered to the north by the Saxon Shore Way footpath along the Swale.

Cleve Hill Solar Park Ltd says the boundaries, which would now include a Site of Special Scientific Interest, were extended to increase 'habitat management areas' which would be set aside for wildlife.

The site has also been extended to the north to help manage flood risk.

Spokesman Emily Marshall said: "There's two main reasons for extending the red line boundary. Firstly, following feedback from Kent Wildlife Trust and the RSPB, one of their suggestions was to link up the habitat management area of the site with the existing designated area next to it.

"The second reason was to have the ability to work with the Environment Agency to maintain the flood defences. [The site] encapsulates the area where any maintenance might be needed."

Ms Marshall said that solar panels - which could be as high as 4 metres in some areas - would only cover 53% of the site, with the rest reserved for electrical infrastructure or wildlife.

"We won't be adding any solar panels to that area, in fact we have removed solar panels in response to consultation," she continued.

Proposed site for Cleve Hill Solar Park Farm near Graveney
Proposed site for Cleve Hill Solar Park Farm near Graveney

However villagers in Graveney have vowed to keep fighting the plans.

Lut Stewart, vice chair of the Graveney Rural Environmental Action Team, whose home in Broom Street lies 20 metres from the proposed site, said: "What the villagers feel is helplessness. They just seem to be taking everything from us."

"They're taking on the role of the Environment Agency. This is not something Cleve Hill should be doing. They're not experts in flood defences, the Environment Agency is and we don't really want to put our security into the hands of an organisation that's about trashing nature.

"They take us to be really stupid, because it's exactly the same amount of panels as they had previously. There's no respect for people. If you look at any other solar park in Europe, they're in industrial areas. They don't impact on whole communities of residents.

"I will be looking at solar panels from every room in my house, and I came to live here for the nature. It's not about about clean energy, it's about making money.

"This is destroying a whole community. But we are not going to take this lying down. This is just the wrong place."

Proposed site for Cleve Hill Solar Farm at Graveney
Proposed site for Cleve Hill Solar Farm at Graveney

Phase Two of community consultation began on Thursday May 31 and will run until Friday July 13. Public events will be held on:

- Wednesday June 13 from from 4.30pm to 7.30pm at Ferry House Inn, Harty Ferry Road, Harty, ME12 4BQ

- Thursday 14 June from 1.30pm to 8pm at Graveney Village Hall, Graveney, Faversham, ME13 9DN

- Friday 15 June from 11am to 4pm at Seasalter Christian Centre, Seasalter, Faversham Road, Whitstable, CT5 4AX

- Saturday 16 June from 11am to 5.30pm at Faversham Guildhall, 8 Market Place, Faversham, ME13 7AG

To see the plans, go to www.clevehillsolar.com.

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