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Field of panels approval slated by city councillor

Disappointment at green light for new 200-acre solar farm

THE decision to approve a vast solar farm south of Herne Bay has been criticised by a city councillor. More than 200 acres of countryside next to Owl’s Hatch Road are to be covered by rows of 2.4-metre panels, forming one of the largest solar farms in the country. The scheme by developer British Solar Renewables was approved on Thesday last week by Canterbury City Council’s planning committee by seven votes to three. However, Ashley Clark, vice-chairman of the committee, was deeply disappointed by the decision to push through the project. He said:

“This is an area designated in the Local Plan as of high landscape value and they’ve completely ridden over that,” he said. “I don’t see the point of having a Local Plan if you’re not going to stick to it. There seems to be an obsession that if it’s a renewable resource, it’s got to be approved.”

And he was not convinced by the claim of the landowner that the development should be permitted because it would provide Herne Bay’s entire energy needs. He said:

“It has to be seen in the context of what we’ve already got. I stand to be proved wrong, but I’ve worked out that with the power from the Vattenfall offshore wind farm and the three solar farms that have been approved, we already have 150 per cent of the district’s energy needs when the government target is 30 per cent. So we’re punching five times above the government target.”

Green spaces

“We need to ask, firstly, if there is a need and secondly, should be taking away our green spaces to provide energy for other areas. I’m not necessarily against these things, but every part of the country should be producing its energy in some way. What I’m looking at is that it’s fair. The other thing is they say these panels will only be up for 25 years, but governments are as fickle as the people who elect them. Who’s to say that when that time period is up they won’t simply call this site brownfield land and cover it with housing? And after 25 years are we going to stop needing power?”

Council officers had initially recommended the scheme be refused, but after a reduction of 20 acres in its size and the imposition of a 25-year life span chose to make no recommendation either way.

Herne Bay Times, January 15th 2015

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