15 February 2020
Report from Opposition to Cleve Hill industrial solar power station Umbrella group meeting with GREAT - Graveney Rural Environment Action Team
Thursday 13th Feb, Faversham Guildhall:
The meeting was run by the GREAT group who are now broadening out to take on board any other interested parties in opposing the Cleve Hill project.
There was also present Hannah Perkins, Helen Whately for a 15 minute appearance and Andrew Bowles (who only stayed for 40 minutes).
In no particular order, some of the issues raised were:
A presentation by Sir David Melville,Chair of the Faversham society – He gave a very compelling summary pointing out that the combined power of the 1,000,000 battery storage units would be equivalent to 1/20th of the Hiroshima bomb. Potential toxic fumes from the lithium ion batteries would spread as far as Faversham, Whitstable and Sheppey depending on wind conditions. In other words, it’s a Swale-wide issue.
Rules about the number of lorries allowed in a day to travel to one project, could mean that there was HGV traffic every 8 minutes for up to two years during the construction period, going down Graveney Road, (past a Primary School).
Helen Whately's presentation made the additional point that, ideally, we would not only oppose Cleve Hill but also work on returning the area to salt marshes.
Mr Knox Johnson gave an excellent review of the potential for opposing a decision if it went against us. It would need £5k to help make it work.
There was talk about Alok Sharma, the new business secretary of state, and his potential attitudes considering also that he will be hosting COP24 in Glasgow very soon. He has a degree in applied physics and is also opposed to developments in his hometown of Reading, so may be a good bet. He is also seen to be on the left side of the new conservative party.
Alok will have 3 months to make the decision, it is likely to happen nearer May than February as he will have a huge list of decisions to deal with.
Helen Whately said she would be able to try and influence DEFRA amongst other parliamentary colleagues, but the business secretary would have to be more careful in his conversations to show a balanced judgement.
Methods of opposition suggested included approaching the financiers of the project, approaching the project via Health and safety legislation routes.
It was noted that without the battery storage units, which came later in the proposal that the original scheme for just panels, the Cleve Hill organisation wouldn’t make enough money to justify the project, as they are what allows the hedge fund activity.
For information, the owner of Cleve Hill is not a farmer, and has connections with the ownership of Eastwell Manor. He stands to make £1.5m per annum for 40 years rent and he gets the land back at the end. There is a belief that he will get some money from Cleve Hill solar people regardless of the decision just to keep him on their side. The environment agency couldn’t match this amount of money.
The message is that the Cleve Hill opposition group have done more than anyone would ever have expected and got significant support on their side and are now able to win.
Now is the time to fight…..we still need your support! Please contact us at SGP or GREAT - Graveney Rural Environment Action Team.