Priestly: don’t rush solar plan

By Country News

There’s no need to rush the outcomes of four solar farm proposals for the city, nor on a framework for future solar developments, the Committee For Greater Shepparton says.

Instead, it is important that guidelines for future solar developments are coherent, sensible and mindful of future land use.

Committee chairman Rob Priestly said while there was anticipation around a report and decisions on the four solar developments, a few more weeks would not hurt the outcome.

‘‘Everyone in the community is keen to see a result on the solar farm applications, but I think it’s better to take a few more weeks, and get a coherent policy from the state government,’’ he said.

Mr Priestly stressed the importance of guidelines that encouraged solar farm development, but that also considered factors such as irrigation infrastructure and the potential to ‘‘lock out’’ production.

‘‘We need to make sure we get a sensible framework that encourages these great developments to occur in a way that does not strand irrigation assets or displace job-intensive agriculture,’’ Mr Priestly said.

‘‘Once they are built, we are locking that land out of production for a generation or more.’’

The outcomes of four large-scale solar farm applications for the City of Greater Shepparton will edge closer next month.

An independent planning panel’s report into four solar farm projects for the Goulburn Valley has been handed down to Victoria’s planning minister and he is considering the recommendations, with the report set to be released in September.

The government will consider the findings of the panel, as well as actions in other states, to develop solar farm guidelines that work for Victoria.

‘‘We’re developing clear guidelines for the assessment of solar farm applications in Victoria — to give locals certainty and support jobs,’’ a government spokesperson said last week.

A planning panel hearing into four solar proposals for the Greater Shepparton area earlier this year had been urged by submitters on the need for a clear set of guidelines around solar farm proposals to be developed.

The proceedings follow Planning Minister Richard Wynne’s office calling in the four proposals after the council had requested their outcome be determined by the minister’s office.

—Thomas Moir