Published: 06:00, 03 May 2020
A petition against building Britain's biggest solar farm on the outskirts of Faversham has reached a milestone of 3,000 signatures – with a decision on the controversial bid is expected in weeks.
The mammoth project would power 90,000 homes but campaigners say it will destroy wildlife and are concerned about its safety, claiming the giant lithium battery is at risk of blowing up with the ferocity of a "small nuclear bomb".
Started by the Faversham Society, the online campaign is against the planned vast "industrialisation" of the Graveney Marshes, which are an important haven for birds and wildlife.
The company behind the 900-acre scheme, Cleve Hill Solar Park, says the project will generate enough "clean" electricity to power more than 90,000 homes.
But now, just a few weeks before Energy Secretary Alok Sharma makes a decision on the proposal, campaigners fear it is on a "knife edge|" and are urging a final push for more support for the petition.
In the Society's latest news bulletin, they write: "We know that Cleve Hill is now being actively considered by staff in the ministry.
"Don't delay, sign the petition and it is also important that large numbers of emails and letters of objection are received by the Secretary of State."
The park will have a million solar panels the height of two double decker buses.
It also includes the world's biggest lithium battery plant, which will be the size of 20 football pitches and is at the centre of fears over the safety of the scheme.
Writing on their petition page on change.org, the Society adds: "These batteries, which are untested at this scale, are prone to runaway fires leading to massive explosions and the emission of toxic hydrogen fluoride gas that can kill or maim over a large area.
"An explosion would have the energy of a small nuclear bomb. Lithium-ion batteries have a history of spontaneous fires that cannot be put out with water and can throw flames 70ft high.
"We are concerned for the safety of our families and particularly our children in the nearby primary school as well as the loss of an important wildlife and amenity area."
But bosses at Cleve Hill Solar Park say they are working with an industry leading battery supplier for the project’s energy storage proposals and have been provided reassurances on safety standards.
"In conjunction with these experts we have produced a battery safety management plan which has been consulted on and agreed with the Health and Safety Executive and Kent Fire and Rescue Service," they add.
The project 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 numerous conflicting issues were examined at a public inquiry last year, during which campaigners branded it an environmental disaster for Graveney.
It is also being opposed by Kent Wildlife Trust and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
Following the public inquiry, the inspector's recommendation was sent to the Secretary of State, who has a deadline by the end of May to make his decision.
For more information on the society's campaign, click here.