The UK government has given the go-ahead for the £450m ($554m) Cleve Hill solar farm – set to be Britain's largest PV plant – to be built in southeast England.

Energy secretary Alok Sharma granted consent for the giant 350MW subsidy-free project, which will be located on land near the town of Faversham on the north Kent coast.

Cleve Hill is being developed by a joint venture between Hive Energy and Wirsol Energy. Development consent has been given for a solar array, battery storage and connection infrastructure.

The go-ahead for the project came despite long-running opposition from local politicians and groups raising concerns over damage to the countryside and potential fire risks from the battery storage.

“The decision to grant consent for the Cleve Hill solar park was taken after careful consideration. Solar power has the capacity to play an important role in the UK, helping to end its contribution to climate change by 2050,” said a Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) spokesperson.

BEIS said the UK now has nearly 14GW of solar capacity installed, enough to power over 3 million homes.

“Today the government has shown that it recognises the vital contribution solar can make to Britain’s energy mix,” said Solar Trade Association chief executive Chris Hewett. “This is a major milestone on the road towards a UK powered by clean, affordable renewables.

“Solar has a significant role to play in boosting the economy in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. With the right policies we can expect to see an 8GW pipeline of solar projects unlocked and rapidly deployed in the UK, swiftly creating a wealth of skilled jobs and setting us on the path towards a green recovery.”

Construction work on the 364 hectare project, which will comprise 880,000 solar panels along with a co-located battery storage facility, is expected to commence in the spring of 2021. The solar park is planned to be operational in 2022.

UK solar saw a sharp downturn in activity after the Conservative government of former prime minister David Cameron decided in 2015 to exclude PV and onshore wind from contract-for-difference (CfD) auction rounds.

In a major u-turn the current government earlier this year unveiled plans to lifted the ban, allowing both technologies to compete in the Round 4 CfD auction next year.