I remain extremely concerned about what is being proposed and will be writing to the company to set this out.
I attended the exhibition organised by the company at Graveney Village Hall last month and, like many of you who have contacted me about this, was disappointed that the proposals do have not managed to mitigate many of the concerns raised.
I’ve spent a lot of time talking to residents in the area about their views on the emerging proposals and I’ve also visited some of the properties closest to the proposed site to get a better understanding of what the impact of the solar panels would be. I was pleased to attend the recent community event hosted by GREAT (Graveney Rural Environmental Action Team), who have been doing an excellent job of raising awareness including via their website www.savegraveneymarshes.org.
The main concerns I have set out to Cleve Hill are as follows:
- Size and location of the site – Despite paring back the size of the site, the sheer scale of the proposal remains huge. The marshes are a special, tranquil and beautiful landscape that should be protected for future generations to enjoy.
- Views from the Saxon Shore Way – The panels are expected to reach 4m in some places, and will stretch to right up to the edge of the Saxon Shore Way. This will inevitably impact on the enjoyment of this unique landscape.
- Ineffective screening – There are plans to screen the panels with vegetation, but this will take at least ten years to take hold , and even then I’m concerned that the properties and footpaths nearest to the site will still be impacted negatively.
- Flora and fauna – The marshes are home to a huge variety of birds, mammals and other creatures, who rely on the salt marshes and mudflats environment. The nature of the panels, oriented east-west and densely packed, will let little sunlight to the earth below and I am unclear as to what wildlife this will effectively support.
- Flood defences – My understanding is that Cleve Hill are seeking to take control of the flood defences so that they can maintain them to reduce flood risk onto the site. I am concerned that this conflicts with the potential long term use of the site as an area of compensatory habitat for the delivery of the Medway Estuary and Swale Strategy.
I support the development of alternative energy sources, but some balance has to be struck between the big picture benefits and the immediate, local impact. I don’t feel a balance is achieved here. The local impact is simply unacceptable.
The scheme is classified as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project and I have written to Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, to share my reservations and understand what alternatives there are for providing renewable energy that does not involve the destruction of our landscape in such a dramatic fashion.
Although the Cleve Hill-led consultation is coming to an end, this is by no means the end of the process. Subject to the proposal meeting particular standards, it will undergo a full public examination and residents will have an opportunity to present their views. I would recommend visiting this webpage for more information about what will happen next: https://infrastructure.planninginspectorate.gov.uk/application-process/the-process/
I will continue to lobby against this proposal to protect this special part of Kent.