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Kent Wildlife Trust and RSPB want more details on plans to build huge solar farm near Graveney

By Anna MacSwan

Plans to build the UK’s largest solar farm a mile outside Faversham have come under scrutiny from environmental groups.

The proposals for Cleve Hill Solar Park Farm, which went on public display for the first time last week, would see an 890-acre solar farm built near the village of Graveney.

According to the Kent Wildlife Trust, the farmland site is home to bird species such as skylarks, and its ditches are used by water voles and reed buntings.

An 890-acre solar farm has been proposed near Graveney. Picture: Thinkstock
An 890-acre solar farm has been proposed near Graveney. Picture: Thinkstock

At certain times of the year, birds from the Swale also use the land.

Developers have promised to set aside areas of the park specifically for wildlife and land management.

But Greg Hitchcock, from the Kent Wildlife Trust, said: “The question we have is, will the area they are leaving undeveloped be enough, and is it in the right place? Is it enough land to support the species?

“We are still waiting on a lot of information, but this is by far the biggest solar farm the country has seen, by five times, and it is also a design the country has never seen before, so we have a lot of questions.

“We have submitted our concerns, and are waiting for information on what scale it might be and how developers respond.”

The endangered water vole
The endangered water vole

Tim Webb, from the RSPB, said he was aware that the area proposed for the site is home to a number of brent geese and that the charity wanted to see full details of the plans.

He said: “We’re watching and waiting. As a conservation charity, we support green technology. We really want to find out what it is and where that they are planning.

"We do work with solar farm companies and they can be very good for birds and wildlife, if they are done in the right way.”

A skylark
A skylark

Emily Marshall, a spokesman for Cleve Hill Solar Farm, said the developers were aware of the designation of the area surrounding the site.

An environmental impact assessment has been carried out alongside bird surveys for the past four years, which will be submitted with the planning application.

She said: “We are assessing all of the different ecological aspects of the site and looking at ways that we can mitigate any impact.”

Although concerns have been raised over the size of the project, the developers argue that the proposed scale will generate renewable energy at lower cost.

Ms Marshall said: “The site, if built, would have a proposed generating capacity of 350 megawatts. It would generate clean, renewable energy for 110,000 homes a year.

“A scheme of this size allows this to be delivered without subsidies. It’s important to deliver affordable as well as renewable energy to households.”

The initial phase of consultation will last until December 22.

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