Cleve Hill solar farm battery storage application rejected –

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By Daniel Esson & Flaminia LuckLocal Democracy Reporting Service

LDRS ProtestersLDRS
Ahead of the meeting, a protest was held outside Swale Borough Council’s offices in Sittingbourne

An application for battery storage units at the UK’s biggest solar farm has been refused.

Cleve Hill Solar Park, at Graveney, in Kent, was given government approval in May 2020.

The plans require a 150-megawatt battery facility over 25 acres to store energy generated by 880,000 solar panels.

But campaigners raised safety concerns about the lithium ferro phosphate (LFP) batteries to store the energy.

A protest was held outside Swale Borough Council’s (SBC) offices in Sittingbourne ahead of a planning committee meeting on Wednesday.

LFP batteries are “more subject to explosion risk than other types,” according to a SBC report.

Committee members rejected the battery safety management plan for the site after nearly four hours of debate.

imageCleve Hill Solar Farm, Graveney, near Faversham
A lack of water or a evacuation plan in the event of an emergency were among the reasons the plan was rejected

The solar farm, which is under construction near Faversham, could generate renewable power for more than 91,000 homes.

Committee members refused the battery management plan on grounds of a lack of water storage facilities on site, a lack of access to the battery storage area, and the lack of an evacuation emergency plan, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Sir David Melville, a physicist and vice chair of the Faversham Society, said the battery plans posed “unacceptable risks of fire, explosion, and the emission of toxic gases”.

‘Collateral damage’

Graveney councillor Mike Newman said: “The village is extremely anxious and worried – the plans to communicate an incident to them or to help them escape or survive do not exist.

“The villagers believe that they are being treated as the acceptable collateral damage at the altar of your ambitions.”

Paul Gregory, a consultant with BST&T, which was hired by SBC to scrutinise the proposal, said of the safety plan: “I was fully satisfied that the content and protocols were fit for purpose.”

Sheppey county councillor Andy Booth proposed to add conditions to the application, but councillors voted against it.

He later walked out of the meeting saying the decision was “a travesty”.

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