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Cleve Hill Solar Farm, near Faversham and Whistable, planning inspection start date revealed


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An inspection deciding whether to allow a huge solar farm to go ahead is due to kick off next month, it has been revealed.

Opponents and applicants will come face to face at the first public meeting for the plans to build Cleve Hill Solar Park.

Planning inspectors will discuss the proposals for the £450 million development at a preliminary meeting in Faversham on May 30.

Nagden Marsh, where part of the solar farm would be built if approved
Nagden Marsh, where part of the solar farm would be built if approved

An application for a development consent order (DCO) has been submitted to build a solar farm on farmland in Graveney, between Faversham and Whitstable.

The controversial scheme has sparked a backlash from residents who have been backed by Faversham and Mid Kent MP, Helen Whately.

Inspectors will decide whether to allow the DCO after holding a series of public meetings and exploring a range of issues and hearing concerns, which is set to last six months.

The preliminary meeting takes place at the Alexander Centre in Faversham town centre on Thursday, May 30 at 10am.

The panel has published a list of 10 "principal issues" it will assess along with issuing a draft timetable outlining a range of deadlines for evidence, site visit and public hearings.

Lead inspector David Rose, from the Planning Inspectorate, set a date of November 29 to complete the examination by.

But in a letter published this week, he warns the inaugural public event next month will not examine the "merits of the case" at this early stage.

Faversham MP Helen Whately organised a protest against the solar farm plans with campaigners in February. Picture: Andy Jones (7219924)
Faversham MP Helen Whately organised a protest against the solar farm plans with campaigners in February. Picture: Andy Jones (7219924)

Setting out details of how the process will take place, Mr Rose says: "The preliminary meeting enables views to be put to us about the way in which the application is to be examined.

"At this stage the panel is looking at the procedure and not the merits of the application.

"The merits of the application will only be considered once the examination starts, which is after the preliminary hearing has closed.

"The meeting provides you with an opportunity to have your say about procedural issues."

If granted, the solar farm by developers Cleve Hill Solar Park Ltd will provide power for 91,000 homes on a site the size of 218 football pitches, it was revealed in plans submitted in December.

Views of the proposed site for the 436-acre solar farm on Graveney Marshes
Views of the proposed site for the 436-acre solar farm on Graveney Marshes

Key dates in the draft timetable include the first deadline for evidence, comments and submissions on the application on June 26 ahead of six meetings to examine issues between July 16 and 23.

A site inspection is earmarked to happen on July 24 before two submission deadlines in August.

A second week of meetings is planned for early September before three more deadlines in October and November ahead of the end of the consultation at the end of November.

Full details of the examination is available via the Planning Inspectorate website.

Anyone wishing to attend the meeting needs to register by May 16 by writing to clevehillsolarpark@planninginspectorate.gov.uk or by letter to Hefin Jones at National Infrastructure Planning, Temple Quay House, 2 The Square, Bristol, BS1 6PN

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