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Cleve Hill

The government has passed the Development Consent Order for Cleve Hill. The Society is extremely disappointed. Two legal opinions were sought on the possibility of Judicial Review, but no procedural grounds could be identified. Bad decisions cannot be reversed by Judicial; Review there need to be procedural irregularities.

The Society’s response to the Secretary of State’s decision can be accessed here.

The developers will need to secure permission to proceed from Swale Borough Council, and the Society will continue to work to ensure that the detailed plans when submitted are subject to detailed scrutiny. The developer will need to submit detailed plans on the batteries, traffic, biodiversity, screening and landscaping.

Additional information is welcome on these and other matters relating to Cleve Hill.


The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has decided to remove electricity storage, except pumped hydro, from the NSIP regime, both onshore and offshore, in England and Wales. This will mean that the primary consenting route for electricity storage (except pumped hydro) in England will be under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (TCPA). link



Green Energy done badly: Cleve Hill Solar Park.





Good coverage in KentOnline

C J Stone Save Graveney Marshes in Whitstable Views
Of course we do need solar power, the question is, where to put the panels? There’s an obvious answer to that. Go stand stand on the top of Borstal Hill on a sunny day and you’ll see: a landscape of roofs warming in the sunshine.
There should be no new houses built without solar panels, and all south facing roofs should have them fitted as soon as possible.
The only drawback to this scheme is that it wouldn’t be making profits for the energy companies.
Which is probably why it isn’t being considered.

As reported in the Faversham Eye
Wirsol is being sued in the High Court “for gross negligence and reckless misconduct” over some much smaller solar parks they built and sold. At issue is whether they are capable of building solar farms which both work and are safe. read more

Our online petitiion secured 5000 signatures

The text below was available during our campaign.


I am objecting to the proposed Cleve Hill Solar Power Station for the following reasons:

  • I have seen the letter sent to you by Dr Alastair Gould, Senior Partner at Newton Place Surgery on behalf of the whole practice.  I share his concerns about the fire risks associated with lithium-ion batteries and the toxicity of hydrogen fluoride.  The proposed batteries are untried and untested at this scale, and I note that Arizona, where there have been serious fires, has stopped the use of this technology.  I urge you to think very carefully about your responsibility for approving a development based on emerging, untested and potentially very hazardous technology.  This is dirty solar, and the proposal should be rejected.
  • The sheer scale of the development with nearly one million panels the height of a London double-decker bus, 200,000 steel piles over an area the size of Faversham will industrialise a natural landscape of considerable value for recreation, tourism, and wildlife.
  • The site sustains thousands of migrating birds and is recognised as providing essential feeding and nesting ground for many threatened species, including Brent geese, reed-buntings, nesting skylarks, and marsh harriers. It is recognised by RSPB and Kent Wildlife Trust as providing important connectivity and habitat between the sites already protected.
  • I am concerned about the impact of the increased traffic thundering past the local primary school for two years, causing pollution and disturbance in addition to the road accident risk.  There will be up to 80 heavy goods vehicles per day thundering past Graveney School within metres of the school playground.  That is one lorry every 6 minutes during construction, and there will be many traffic movements associated with site maintenance when construction is finished.

Dr Dr Alastair Gould, Senior Partner, Newton Place Surgery has written to the Secretary of State:
I am extremely concerned that the potential hazards associated with such a large BESS pose an unacceptable risk of death or long term illness to the population which is served by Newton Place Medical Practice.
I, therefore, urge you to decide against this proposal.
The full letter is here - it makes disturbing reading.

In the examination of the Cleve Hill proposal no consideration as given to the security and health & safety issues Tim Ingram has spotted that the Inspectors examining a similar proposal for Sunnica Energy Farm in Cambridgeshire have demanded that the developers address these issues during the examination.

Cleve Hill: Do You Realise Its Dangers?

David Melville

There are many reasons to object to the Cleve Hill power station proposal.
Solar power is a good thing. However, the proposal to build the second-largest solar power station in Europe with the world’s largest storage battery on Faversham’s doorstep is simply wrong.

Did you know the sheer size of the solar power station? Nearly one million solar panels, the height of a double-decker bus, over an area the size of Faversham.

The construction, if approved, will take two years to complete – and that means 80 heavy lorries daily on a narrow road only yards from Graveney Primary School.

The power stations batteries would bring danger of fire, explosion, toxic fumes and even terrorism.

The storage batteries planned for Graveney are five times as big as the current largest in the world and would be over an area the size of 20 football pitches.

Lithium-ion batteries have a history of spontaneous fires which cannot be put out with water and can throw up to flames 70ft high.

These batteries are prone to runaway fires leading to massive explosions. A Graveney explosion would have the energy of two small nuclear bombs – just outside Faversham. Consider that.

Toxic hydrogen fluoride gas from such fires can kill or maim adults and children over a large area. Batteries are an obvious terrorist target – and no serious security arrangements are being proposed.

The threat to wildlife, environment and heritage is immense. Wildlife and conservation organisations are opposed to the loss of important salt marsh habitat for iconic and endangered birds and animals; access to important heritage assets is threatened.

Our leaflet will launch a letter-writing campaign to try to persuade the new secretary of state to reject the proposal. Please attend the public meeting, at St Mary of Charity Parish Church at 7.30 pm on 30 March.

Faversham Society Blog Posts regarding Cleve Hill

(c) Jim Bennett - reproduced with permission

Elsewhere on the web
"It's been nearly six months since an explosion ripped through a grid battery near Phoenix and upended the industry's understanding of the technology's safety.” link

"An August 2 letter from Arizona regulator Sandra Kennedy says lithium batteries should not be used at utility-scale — and she warns that a 250MW lithium-ion battery has the energy equivalent to 215 tons of TNT.” link

Standard & Poors investment industry website is damning
  "When a 2-MW battery array in Surprise, Ariz. caught fire and subsequently exploded on April 19, it highlighted a troubling reality for the nascent energy storage industry: the sector's momentum, marked by record numbers of deployments, falling prices and expanding state mandates and incentives, could be derailed by a series of well-publicized and, in some cases, little-known incidents involving runaway fires. 

As projects proliferate, driven by demand for solutions to integrate intermittent renewables into grid operations and to offset the need for fossil fuels, the industry is being forced to acknowledge that fires, most of them linked to lithium-ion batteries, are occurring with troubling frequency. Incidents over the past year include the blaze in Arizona along with more than 20 energy storage systems that have reportedly caught fire in South Korea, putting the world's hottest energy storage market on ice amid a safety probe. Fires linked to lithium-ion batteries also have hit Europe and Australia.”

GREAT's drone footage of the beauty of the site

There is more on the environmental issues here

The Faversham Society strongly supports renewable energy and regrets that the new housing being built around Faversham has no provision for solar or wind power, nor have ground source heat pumps been installed. Renewable energy systems are best installed during initial construction, it is much more expensive if they have to be retrofitted.

Solar Power should be low cost, safe, low carbon and clean, but the Cleve Hill power station will be none of those things. w cost, safe, low carbon and clean, but the Cleve Hill power station will be none of those things.

Solar power generation can and should be low cost, safe and low carbon in exactly the way the developers claim but will not achieve in this case.   In the case of Cleve Hill, the benefits of low-carbon electricity generation would come at a very high price.  The bottom line is that it is a dirty solar project that would give renewable energy a bad name.

  • Costs: the environmental and opportunity costs of the Cleve Hill project will be anything but low.  The main opportunity cost relates to the Environment Agency’s original plan to allow Graveney Marshes to revert to salt marsh within the next 20 years.  That plan has been postponed by at least 40 years as a result of the solar power station project, along with all the environmental benefits (including carbon sequestration, provision of nutrients to marine wildlife, etc.) that reversion to salt marsh would have brought.  It is not clear either whether the developers have budgeted for the very significant costs of strengthening sea defences against rising sea levels, which are conservatively predicted to increase by 0.5m or within the 40-year life of the solar power station.  The developers have downplayed too the huge volume of HGV construction traffic on small country roads that will plague the local community during the 2-3 year construction phase of the power station, potential negative impacts on wildlife, the loss of amenity for local residents and increasing numbers of visitors to Kent, as well as the very substantial cost of decommissioning and cleaning up the site at the end of its life.
  • Safety: the risks associated with the Cleve Hill project are so great that the site may be impossible to insure.  In particular, there is growing evidence that large lithium-ion battery storage systems constitute a major fire risk, with respected energy and financial sector commentators noting that fires linked to lithium-ion batteries are now occurring with troubling frequency with the result that the industry's understanding of the technology's safety has been upended in recent months.  Additional safety risks are posed by the failure of the would-be developers to take seriously the threat of terrorist attack.  During the 2019 Planning Inspectorate hearings, the only security measure they proposed was the installation of CCTV cameras, failing entirely to mention the requirement for nationally significant infrastructure projects to conduct — and implement the recommendations of — a full Security Considerations Assessment.
  • Carbon emissions:  the carbon emissions associated with 2-3 years of HGV movements during the construction phase of the project will be very significant.  Construction will involve the unnecessary use of hundreds of thousands of tonnes of concrete which is now recognised as a major source of CO2 emissions.  Conversely, the project will prevent the carbon sequestration that would take place if the site were allowed to revert to salt marsh as originally planned by the Environment Agency.  Further emissions would be caused by raising the existing seawall by the 0.5-1m that will be required if the project goes ahead but that would be unnecessary under reversion to salt marsh. 

There has been a great deal of coverage in the Faversham Eye

Latest update in the FavershamEye
Cleve Hill: A Small Problem of Insurance

Helen Whately 20-02-2020

I know some people have been through the horrible experience this month of seeing floodwater enter their homes. It’s a reminder of the pressures we face in Kent - and the need to make sure new developments work with our plans for tackling climate change. Natural flood defences will become even more important - another reason to oppose the Cleve Hill solar plant as we would lose the opportunity to turn Graveney Marshes back into valuable coastal salt marsh.
The Secretary of State is due to receive a recommendation from the planning inspectors by the end of this month about whether to grant permission to build the UK's largest solar plant next to Faversham.

I've been continuing to do all I can to oppose this development, working with the GREAT campaign (Graveney Rural Environment Action Team) to highlight the environmental damage this plant would inflict on a beautiful strength of the North Kent Coast. 

A final decision will be made by the end of May, so campaign work will step up a gear over the next few months.

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