Published: 10:05, 20 June 2022
| Updated: 10:09, 20 June 2022
Plans for a 133 hectare, £40 million solar park that would generate enough electricity to power 23,670 UK homes has been submitted to Swale Borough Council.
The site spans 133 hectares, of which 88 hectares would be used for solar, with the remainder of the site dedicated to wildlife enhancement areas, or public space/wildflower meadows.
The plans have been brought forward by JBM solar, with Raspberry Solar Park to be located on Grade 3b, ‘moderate quality’ farmland, which will continue to be used for pastoral farming, to the northwest of Sittingbourne.
Due to the type of development, the site would be preserved as greenfield before, during and after it is decommissioned, should it be approved, and would provide £7.6m in local business rates to Swale Borough Council to improve public services.
It would be located to the south of Raspberry Hill Lane and cover land between Lower Halstow and Iwade, and would save over 1.4 million tonnes of CO2 over traditional fossil fuel energy production methods.
JBM Solar was established in 2012 and has already secured consent for over 1GW of renewable solar schemes in the UK and Ireland, and places a focus on community engagement, and providing substantial local wildlife enhancements on every site.
The latest proposal will also bring an array of local and national benefits.
For example, the poorly maintained footpaths which cross the site, including the Saxon Way, will be enhanced and widened to up to 10 metres in width, and given educational boards detailing local wildlife, including the Shrill Carder Bee, and the area’s local history.
The company also proposes to encourage visits to the site by installing picnic benches and an outdoor classroom/workspace, in addition to a community orchard for the use by local schools and community groups.
And it promises to plant over 40 acres of new wild-flower meadows with butterfly and bee habitats, native hedgerows and trees. Through an array of ecological enhancements, the site will result in a gain to local biodiversity of over 150% (15x the standard).
Existing hedgerows and trees are to be preserved with an extra 7km of hedgerow planted or enhanced to help screen views of the solar panels.
As a bonus, the company is offering to provide grants for local community projects, and free rooftop solar installations for any school, community building or church in the area.
The solar park will be designed to last 40 years, and it will then be removed and the site will return to its former condition.
The company says construction will cost £40m and take six months, creating 70 construction jobs in the process.
The scheme received considerable community support, with over 85% of respondents leaving comments of support through the consultation process, according to the Statement of Community Involvement, submitted as part of the application.
Further details of the application can be viewed on the Raspberry Solar Park’s website here or via the Swale Borough Council Planning Portal.