Kent

Cleve Hill solar farm environmental fears

Land at Cleve Hill, Kent, where the solar park is proposed
Image caption The giant solar park would be built on 890 acres of farmland near Faversham

The UK's largest solar farm is earmarked for the worst possible location, an environmental group says.

A consortium of two energy companies has announced plans to build a solar park on 890 acres (360 hectares) of farmland at Cleve Hill, near Faversham.

But campaigning group CPRE Kent says the size of the proposal - and its proximity to sensitive environmental sites - makes it eminently unsuitable.

Cleve Hill Solar Park says the venture could power 110,000 homes a year.

The company, formed by industry specialists Hive Energy and Wirsol Energy, wants to create a solar farm capable of generating more than 350MW of energy - which it says would make it the largest such farm in the UK.

It says the giant development on an area of "relatively low-grade" farmland the size of a small town would also bring in more than £1m a year in business rates to Swale Borough and Kent County Councils.

But the scale of the proposal has surprised the local parish council, which is determined to scrutinise the plans closely.

'Trashing landscapes'

Hilary Newport, director of CPRE Kent, said development there would harm the landscape and threaten wildlife.

"If I was to think of the worst possible place to put a solar farm it would be here," she said.

"We absolutely support the principle of renewable energy, but [the panels] should be on roofs, not trashing landscapes in an astonishingly beautiful part of the Kent marshes."

She said she was also concerned about the impact on wildfowl at a nearby nature reserve.

But a spokeswoman for Cleve Hill said it would address environmental concerns during the consultation process, which begins next month.

Business Secretary and Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark will make the final decision on the plans.

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