Stop Graveney Marsh Solar Farm

Guest Blog by Matthew Hatchwell

On May 10, 2020, the Daily Telegraph published an article about the proposed Cleve Hill Solar Park (CHSP) just outside Faversham on the north Kent coast.  If it goes ahead, it would be the largest solar power station in the UK, covering 900 acres of farmland, containing nearly a million solar panels, and including a battery storage system five times larger than the current record-holder, in Australia.  Local residents, although supportive of solar energy in general, oppose the scheme for a number of reasons, including safety risks associated with the massive battery and the environmental impacts of building a solar power station on a site that lies below sea level in an area that is highly vulnerable to rising sea levels as a result of climate change.

Impression of Solar Farm at Graveney © Jim Bennett used with permission.

According to the Daily Telegraph article last week, “a spokeswoman for the developers, Hive Energy and Wirsol, said safety was ‘at the heart’ of the farm’s design and a battery safety management plan has been agreed with the Health and Safety Executive, as well as Kent Fire and Rescue Service.”  When asked to confirm the existence of such an agreement, KFRS replied that they had “at no stage agreed to or signed off any plans relating to the project as suggested in the news article.”  Lithium ion batteries of the type proposed for Cleve Hill have caused fires, explosions and releases of toxic hydrogen fluoride gas in similar facilities in the US, South Korea and elsewhere that have led respected solar industry and financial investment commentators to caution against their use at other sites until safety questions are answered.

Regarding its impacts on biodiversity, the Daily Telegraph article reported a claim by Hive Energy and Wirsol that: “The solar park will deliver a 65% increase in biodiversity on the intensively farmed site.”  In fact, the comparison should not be between the CHSP scenario and intensive farming, which is notoriously bad for biodiversity, but with the alternative that was being planned by the Environment Agency for the site before the solar power station was proposed: reversion to salt marsh.  Salt marshes are the second most productive and valuable ecosystem in the world after coral reefs, providing a suite of benefits including not only wildlife habitat but also protection against coastal flooding, nutrients for marine organisms, carbon sequestration, erosion control, recreational opportunities, etc.  Data from other sites in the UK where agricultural land has been allowed to revert to salt marsh, in Essex, Kent and West Sussex, show that such an initiative at Cleve Hill would result in a dramatic increase in biodiversity compared to the current land use or any increase that might result from conversion to a solar power station.  The increase in biodiversity that is being promised by CHSP developers is far from guaranteed in any case, since there is no way of knowing exactly how bird and other species — including marsh harriers, Brent geese, water voles and many others — would react to the vast area of solar panels, the height of a double-decker bus, that they intend to install.

There is no doubt that the UK and every other country in the world should be moving away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy sources.  Solar technology should be obligatory for all new houses. The proposed Cleve Hill project demonstrates, however, that not every initiative would deliver on the promise of clean energy.  It makes no sense to locate such a project on land that lies below sea level and that was previously earmarked for reversion to salt marsh.

Join me in showing your opposition to this reckless project by signing the petition at  For further information, see


Matthew Hatchwell is a wildlife conservation consultant living in Faversham, with a particular focus on European eels (the only Critically Endangered species that occurs at the Cleve Hill site).  He is the former Director of Conservation at the Zoological Society of London and previously led conservation programmes in Congo and Madagascar for the US-based Wildlife Conservation Society.

Things Fall Apart

Captain Tom makes millions. Hedge Funds make billions.

Hedge funds are making billions “shorting” companies weakened by the health crisis, while Captain Tom Moore, a 100-year-old veteran of WWII, has been walking the length of his garden on his Zimmer frame to help raise money for the NHS. So far he’s raised nearly £33 million. The NHS is part of Britain’s post-war identity and it was Captain Tom’s generation who gave it to us. The problem is that it’s not a charity: it’s a National Insurance scheme, paid for by our contributions. It’s supposed to pay for itself. The danger now is that the government will see this as a potential source of funding in the future, thus relieving them of their duty to pay for it out of the public purse. Tax the hedge funds, I say, and give Captain Tom a rest.

The latest news is that the government’s PPE stockpile was seriously out of date when the crisis hit. Around 200 million crucial items—including respirators, masks, syringes and needles—were all at least eight months passed their use-by date. That’s 45 percent of the entire stock. The stockpile was managed by a private company that was sold in the middle of the pandemic. The company had a legal obligation to maintain the equipment in a state of readiness for precisely this kind of emergency, but failed to do so.

Read more here.

COVID-19 Conspiracy

What the world doesn’t know yet.

The word “conspire” means to breathe. It’s from the same root as “aspire,” “expire” and “inspire”; from the Latin Spiritus, meaning breath. Specifically it means to breathe together, in close proximity with other people, in secret, in order to make plans that outsiders aren’t privy to.

This happens all the time. For instance, last month I conspired with my sister to see if my niece would like my old bike. I thought she’d probably like the bike, but had to find out if she already had one first. So I checked. Turned out her old bike wasn’t very good and she’d love a new bike. It’s only under certain circumstances that a conspiracy will have a negative effect. If the intentions are negative, then the effect will be negative. If the intentions are positive then so will be the outcome.

Everyone is conspiring all the time in some form or another. Every conversation is a conspiracy, as it’ll exclude all those out of earshot. If a decision is made regarding other people, and those other people aren’t informed, then that’s a conspiracy. Mostly harmless. But if the people conspiring are very rich and powerful, then the conspiracy will have more serious consequences. The rich rule our world, not the politicians. And the greatest conspiracy that’s taking place, all over the globe, is the conspiracy of the very rich to stay very rich.

I’m not sure they think it’s a conspiracy; it’s just the way they operate. They fix things, using their wealth and power, to ensure continued wealth and power, to make sure the world continues to serve them. It’s as natural to them as breathing…

Read more here

We Are All Stasi Now

Inequality and isolation in lockdown UK.

How are you coping with the lockdown? I’m enjoying it. Not that people are dying, or that so many people are afraid, but I like the solitude, quiet walks in the country, empty streets, fresh air, the sound of birds singing, the sight of blossoms on the trees, the onset of a joyous and bountiful spring.

Even the reported deaths might not be as bad as they seem. There are people dying nearby—even some that I know—but overall, I think, there may less death in the world now that the agents of violence are unable to pursue their global strategic aims.

I can’t confirm this. Lockdown has driven everything else off the news. There may be wars raging all over the planet. But with the emergence of this new invisible enemy, maybe the human race can stop making an enemy of itself for a change and focus on what unites us: which is that we’re all at risk now, regardless of what class or color or part of the world we are from.

Read more here

“I see you neighbour!”

Life in lockdown

So what are you doing with your time in this period of enforced isolation?

I watch a lot of telly myself. I mainly avoid the news. What more can they tell you? Wash your hands, keep your distance. I don’t want to hear about the latest fatalities. I don’t think that helps very much.

However, I’ve been having this peculiar sensation whenever I turn the TV on. It’s the weird disconnect between what’s happening on the screen and real life.

Like all those scenes of people in crowded places moving way too close to each other. Or adverts for things that we can’t do, like going to the movies or on holiday. We won’t be able to go out for weeks, maybe months, and who knows when we will feel confident enough to get close to a stranger again?

All of a sudden the TV looks like some alien being that’s invaded my living room. It does its best. It’s like a chameleon. It tries to mimic my life and aspirations, but this coronavirus pandemic has blown its cover. It’s no longer able to sell us the illusion that it’s one of us.

Not that I’m all that bothered. It fills the time and offers cheap entertainment, and now that I can see through it, it can’t do me any harm.

Meanwhile there are other things we can be doing with our time.

Currently a friend of mine is dancing to retro electronic children’s music on a 1970s Fisher Price toy cassette player. She’s drawn a large rectangle on the floor with a marker pen, with diagonal lines across it, from where she does faux Isadora Duncan style expressive dancing: all extravagant arm movements, and winnowing hands.

I recommend it. She’s been inviting all her friends to join her. There’s a Facebook live streaming group dedicated to it. It’s very funny, and passes the time nicely, while giving everyone much needed exercise.

Across the way from where she lives there’s a student. She often sees him there, doing his exercises, or whatever, in his living room. Normally when the two of them catch sight of each other, they look away politely, in the traditional English manner.

On one recent occasion, however, while she was doing her wacky dancing, and he was doing his, they held eye-contact for a while, and then gave the thumbs up. “Yes neighbour, I see you,” she thought. No doubt he was thinking the same thing too.

I had the same feeling the other day, while out for my daily walk. Someone passed me on the other side of the street, another solitary walker. We were walking in opposite directions. We caught each other’s eye and waved. I thought I was recognising a kindred spirit, someone just like me.

Isn’t this strange? We are, most of us, more physically isolated from each other than any of us has ever been in our entire lives, and yet, on some mysterious level, we are more connected too.

We are none of us alone, even when we’re on our own.

If you’d like to join in with the Facebook group, here is the link:

Written for The Whitstable Gazette 02/04/20 but not published. This will be my last piece for them for the time being.

If you would like to write to them to express your appreciation of my work, here is the address:

The Editor, Room B119 Canterbury College, New Dover Road, Canterbury CT1 3AJ

phone: 01227 475985


fax: 01227 762415

(The editor welcomes letters on any topical subject, but reserves the right to edit them. Letters must include your name and address even when emailed and a daytime telephone number.)

Thanks to Isobel for the picture.

Data check

Making broadband free for all is eminently sensible

What is data? It’s a question I’ve been asking myself as currently I’m in the middle of changing my broadband provider.

For the last year I’ve had limited broadband: 18 gigabytes a month.

What you notice when your broadband is restricted is just how much rubbish there is on the internet. The reason you notice it is because you’re paying for it.

Every time you get one of those moving adverts which slows down the rate at which the page downloads, it’s eating up your data.

In other words, not only are the advertisers insinuating themselves between you and what you want to see, but you are paying for the privilege.

It’s the same with those adverts at the beginning of YouTube videos: you know, the ones where they say your video will start in 6 seconds and there’s a little timer in the corner telling you how long you have left to wait. That’s your data they are using.

Personally when I see one of those adverts I vow never to buy the product. So it’s a case of negative advertising in my case: the more they advertise, the less I want to buy.

This is true of all advertisers on the internet. They are stealing your data in order to throw unwanted material at you.

So what are we paying for exactly?

According to my on-line dictionary data is “the quantities, characters and symbols on which operations are performed by a computer.”

In other words – and put more simply – it is language.

Just as the spoken word is language transmitted by vibrations in the air in the form of conversation, and the written word is language transmitted by inscribed symbols on the page in the form of literature, so data is the digital word: language transmitted by electrical signals through copper wire or fibre optics in the form of the internet.

And how much do electrical signals cost? The answer is, virtually nothing.

Data has no weight, no mass and no volume. It costs nothing to move around. It is free, or virtually free, and yet we are being charged to use it. The only cost is on the outlay, on the investment in the equipment. After that there is no work involved. It is all done by algorithms.

When Corbyn promised full-fibre broadband for all, free at the point of use, during the election, he was rounded on by the press. The Daily Mail called the policy “crackpot” and “communist”. Actually it was eminently sensible.

Currently just 7% of households in the UK receive full-fibre broadband. In Spain it is 71%. In Japan it is 99%.

No one argues with the idea that the state should pay for our road infrastructure, and that it should be free at the point of use. It’s the same with schools and libraries. Why not a national communication network, a language medium for the 21st century?

I only hope the next Labour leader, whoever it turns out to be, will continue with the policy.


From The Whitstable Gazette 05/03/20

The editor welcomes letters on any topical subject, but reserves the right to edit them. Letters must include your name and address even when emailed and a daytime telephone number.

Send letters to: The Editor, Room B119 Canterbury College, New Dover Road, Canterbury CT1 3AJ

Phone: 01227 475985

fax: 01227 762415


Couldn’t pay, wouldn’t pay, didn’t pay

The battle to defeat the poll tax

I’m reading an interesting book at the moment. It’s called Couldn’t Pay, Wouldn’t Pay, Didn’t Pay. It’s about the anti-poll tax campaign in Kent in the early 90s.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the most crucial year of the campaign, which included the famous poll tax riot which took place in London in March 1990.

Several prominent organisers were imprisoned for non-payment of the tax. It was called the Community Charge by Margaret Thatcher, but universally referred to as the poll tax by everyone else.

It was one of the most successful examples of political rebranding in modern British history.

The book is compiled and edited by Eric Segal, secretary of the South East Kent Trade Union Council. Eric was one of the principle organisers of the campaign, being the secretary of the Kent Anti-Poll Tax Federation at the time.

He was also imprisoned for his stance, spending a month in jail in August 1991. All elected officials of the Anti-Poll Unions, which had sprung up throughout the country, took their positions on the understanding that it could result in jail time.

Indeed this was the principle tactic of the campaign, the refusal to pay the tax.

We had our own little anti-tax group here in Whitstable. It was called Whitstable Against the Tax, which afforded the wonderful acronym WAT, a reference to Wat Tyler who had led the Peasants Revolt against the original poll tax in 1381.

He was killed by officers loyal to King Richard II on June 15th of that year.

We had our own newspaper. Called Wat Times, it was my own personal foray into the world of political journalism, and marks the first time I effectively put pen to paper.

Sadly all copies of the paper have long since disappeared.

The very unique thing that the Whitstable group did was to organise a march from Canterbury to London, following in the footsteps of Wat Tyler.

This led to a little straggling band of punks, hippies, socialists and assorted ne’er-do-wells, traipsing through the Kent Countryside for several days shouting pointless slogans to a string of sleepy villages.

What none of us had realised at the time was that, actually, most of Kent serves as a dormitory for London, and that large parts of the county are empty in the day time.

To mark the release of the book there will be an event at the Labour Club on Thursday March 12th. It will feature talks by Eric Segal and Nick Dent. It was Nick who organised the march to London.

There will also be songs by Nigel Hobbins, who was on the march with us, and who has written a song commemorating the event. Signed copies of the book will be available.

What the book reminds us is that you don’t have to rely on Parliament to oppose a government. It was the anti-poll tax campaign which brought down Margaret Thatcher. Full of maniacal confidence previously, she resigned in a welter of tearful self-pity in November 1990.

It was the end of an era.


From The Whitstable Gazette 20/02/20

The editor welcomes letters on any topical subject, but reserves the right to edit them. Letters must include your name and address even when emailed and a daytime telephone number.

Send letters to: The Editor, Room B119 Canterbury College, New Dover Road, Canterbury CT1 3AJ

Phone: 01227 475985

fax: 01227 762415


“The Most Unpopular War in History”

The Phrase International Community means Britain and America

Fierce Writing

Noam Chomsky interview in two parts.

Published in the Big Issue in the weeks preceding the global anti-war march, February 15th 2003



Bush wants the same thing as Ronald Reagan did back in the 1980s, writer and commentator Noam Chomsky tells CJ Stone. He wants to control the world’s energy, and keep his own people in check in the process…

Big Issue Feb 3-9 2003

Big Issue: Given that there is no credible link between Saddam Hussein’s regime and Al Qaeda, why, therefore, do you think we are going to war?

Noam Chomsky: Well, first of all, the war might create a credible link. That was the basic import of the material that was leaked from the CIA to Congress in early October. Other Intelligence agencies are saying the same thing. They pointed out that they have no credible link at present, but if…

View original post 3,288 more words

Brexit Blues

It’s finally done, and we’re out – but I fear for our country

So that’s it! Britain has left the EU.

After the interminable debates in the media and the chambers of the Houses of Parliament; after the almost permanent protests on the pavement outside; after the endless posts on social media, the deed has been done and we’re out of the EU at last.

Well not quite. There’s still the little matter of a trade deal to be negotiated. Boris Johnson has promised that it will be complete before the end of the year. But Boris is notoriously imprecise when it comes to such matters. It might be the end of the year. It might be the end of the decade for all we know.

But, symbolically at least, we have passed a milestone and we are no longer in the EU.

Our MEPs are coming home. It’s the end of the gravy train for them. No more bottomless expense accounts. No more free lunches. No more European jollies in the City on the Marsh.

I can’t say that I’m all that excited. Although I voted to leave – for good, old fashioned socialist reasons (the EU is a rich man’s club) – I have no reason to celebrate the form that Brexit is now likely to take.

Already there are speculators placing bets on the collapse of British Industry. The privately-educated Toffs who run the country have their money tucked away in off-shore accounts. It’s fairly clear that their view of Brexit is that Britain should now become the money-laundering capital of the world, with the added benefit of a captive population of desperate labour ripe for exploitation.

I fear for my country, I really do.

Foodbanks are on the rise. Homelessness is on the rise. Inequality is on the rise. There are beggars in every town.

In the North the shops are boarded up and industry has long-since fled. There’s nothing left to do for the youth but to smoke skunk and inhale laughing gas.

Meanwhile London is in the midst of a property boom. Multi-billion pound complexes are springing up like lego-brick fortresses along the banks of the Thames, while the poor are being culled.

There’s an army of low-paid workers commuting in at dawn every day to do the menial tasks that keep the city alive.

The sky is full of cranes. Supercars squeal through the fashionable streets, with nowhere to race but from one traffic light to the next, with no other purpose than to show-off to the neighbours.

Saudi billionaires are digging beneath the foundations of suburban avenues in order to accommodate their home cinemas and indoor swimming pools.

Russian oligarchs are buying up football clubs and newspapers.

Our trade union rights are up for sale, our labour laws and consumer protections subject to future trade deals.

In place of the welfare state we will have lottery funding. In place of education we will have reality TV.

But at least we will have our country back.


From The Whitstable Gazette 09/01/20

The editor welcomes letters on any topical subject, but reserves the right to edit them. Letters must include your name and address even when emailed and a daytime telephone number.

Send letters to: The Editor, Room B119 Canterbury College, New Dover Road, Canterbury CT1 3AJ

Phone: 01227 475985

fax: 01227 762415


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