Council stymied after legal advice suggests no basis to challenge consent order for solar power station

Legal advice obtained by Swale Borough Council on the prospect of a judicial review to overturn a consent order for a 350 MW solar power station and battery storage on Graveney Marshes has suggested that there is no basis upon which the decision can be legally challenged.

The order was granted to Cleve Hill Solar Park Ltd by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on 28 May.

Swale said it was “extremely disappointed with the decision, which was a great shock to local residents”. 

The council claimed the development would industrialise a site the size of Faversham, which was in a very sensitive location.

“Although the council understand the need to generate renewable energy at scale, it is equally important to protect our few remaining wild places,” it said.

The developer now needs to submit proposals to the council on several requirements they are obliged to meet. These requirements cover aspects that were the major areas of concern at the planning enquiry, including management plans for battery safety, landscape and biodiversity and traffic. 

The council is required to consult some official bodies on these proposals, such as the Health and Safety Executive, Kent Fire and Rescue, Natural England and Kent County Council. 

The council said it was committed to going beyond this by consulting local community groups such as Graveney and Goodnestone Parish Council, Faversham Town Council, Graveney Rural Environment Action Team (GREAT), the Faversham Society, CPRE and Kent Wildlife Trust. 

Cllr Tim Valentine, cabinet member for environment, said: “Although the development will go ahead, there is still a lot that local people can do to influence the final proposals and reduce the negative impact as much as possible. 

“At the planning hearings I was enormously impressed by the quality of the evidence and the range of expertise that the local community produced. 

“I hope all interested parties will engage with the consultations on the final requirements and make the development the best it can be.”

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