Campaspe wants the best advice on solar plans

By Riverine Herald

THERE is a desperate need for more direction from the Victorian Government when it comes to approving solar farms, according to Campaspe Shire mayor Adrian Weston.

Because at the moment council is somewhat blind when it comes to what should and should not get the go ahead.

‘‘It’s something relatively new,’’ Cr Weston said.

‘‘It’s not something council has been making decisions about for long periods of time.

‘‘This is the case with any new or emerging developments.

‘‘Some of the ones being proposed are relatively large footprints and I guess it’s a matter for some councils how you balance the potentially competing objectives between the use of farm land for agriculture and the use of farm land for solar farms.

‘‘There’s a bit of tension there and that can make the decision making difficult.

‘‘In any developments it’s a merit based process assessed against all the different clauses in the planning scheme.

‘‘On the other hand ultimately having a secure and affordable supply of energy, namely electricity, will benefit agriculture too ... it’s around balancing potentially what sometimes might look like competing objectives to arrive at an acceptable outcome.

‘‘It’s difficult to arrive at the best outcome but what you’re seeking to do is get an acceptable outcome.’’

Council has approved two solar farms in Lancaster and Girgarre.

‘‘But having said that each and every application gets considered based on its individual merit,’’ he said.

‘‘Just because a council might approve one or two it does not guarantee all will be. You’ve got to assess each application based on its merit.

‘‘As far as what’s happening across the state and certainly in the case of Shepparton they have referred four to the (state) planning minister (Richard Wynne).’’

Cr Weston said a panel had been appointed to work out a set of guidelines.

‘‘To the best of my knowledge the planning minister is considering the panel’s report and will release some guidelines,’’ he said.

‘‘That in itself will assist council by way of ensuring that our decision making across the state, and particularly in the north, will be much more consistent.

‘‘It’s relatively consistent now but it just makes it easier. We would welcome the guidelines.’’

■Council is expected to vote on a solar farm proposal at Stanhope at a meeting in October but Cr Weston was unable to comment on it specifically as a decision is yet to be made.