News

Campaspe Shire councillors vote against solar farm application

By Rodney Woods

STORY BY: LACHIE DURLING

A proposed Koyuga micro solar farm will not go ahead after Campaspe Shire councillors voted against a planning application put forward by ACEnergy.

The solar farm, planned for 8188 Murray Valley Hwy, was voted down at the most recent council meeting with councillors citing visual impact and location in the irrigation district as issues.

ACEnergy is looking at significant investment in the northern Victoria area, with four locations being previously approved in Stanhope, Girgarre, Echuca and Numurkah, however the Koyuga proposal was met with five objections from neighbouring property owners.

Chris Smith and Associates planning consultant Duncan Lowis said the solar farm would use 15 per cent of the entire property and be placed on the least productive land, as identified through soil tests.

“This site is deliberately designed to be subordinate to the primary use; the farmer retains the majority of his land and after the 30-year temporary lease it will be fully remediated and return to his ownership, there is no permanent loss,” he said.

“The site itself, being the 8ha of land, is subject to … some of the poorer soils in the irrigation district.

“We note there were some particularly concerned residents in the area about the location of the property. The site itself and the location of the panels, they’re about 850mm high.

“The site would only be visible when you’re travelling east from Echuca for a period of about 10-13 seconds, and this would be heavily obscured by the screening.

“None of the objectors have an actual view of the facility directly. From each view there are trees obscuring the view.”

Councillor Neil Pankhurst said the planning permit was refused due to a range of considerations, including the fact the panels would sit on farm land that could be irrigated.

“The real crux of this refusal is its location not only in the irrigation district but also on a productive irrigation farm,” Cr Pankhurst said.

“I note that it hasn’t been irrigated for a number of years, but you can still see evidence of the old irrigation layout.

“The fact the farmer chooses not to irrigate it at this time doesn’t provide us sufficient justification for us to say it’s not viable irrigation land and land that should be protected.

“It’s important we keep land that is able to be connected to the irrigation system available for future use.”

One objector, Ray Walker, spoke to the proposed planning permit.

“I feel as though my property is in the lines of what we call a true farm, I don’t believe the word farm, as far as solar, is classified,” he said.

“I’m not against solar farming but do it down some back road somewhere… but not on our beautiful highway that is coming into Echuca-Moama.”