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Update on deferral of solar farm decision

Pile of newspapers wrapped in string.

A planning permit application for a proposed solar farm in Baringup will be deferred to the Minister for Planning for approval.

Friday 24 May 2019

Mount Alexander Shire Council has been informed the Minister for Planning will determine a planning permit application for a proposed solar farm in Baringhup. The Minister will instruct Planning Panels Victoria to run the planning permit application process.

Council made the request to the Minister in March in recognition of the significance of the proposal to the Victorian Government’s renewable energy targets, conflicts between state and local planning policies, and to enable a more efficient and accessible planning process.

The decision will shorten the time frame for a resolution and will bring the review to the Mount Alexander Shire to ensure the community of Baringhup get a chance to have a say.

The Minister will now appoint an independent planning panel to review the application, hear submissions, and make a report and recommendation to guide the Minister’s decision.

While Council is waiting further advice, it is expected a Directions Hearing will be held in the shire in July or August this year, followed by a Panel Hearing around six to eight weeks later.

Council received a planning permit application (PA297/2018) for the use and development of a renewable energy facility (solar and energy storage) in Baringhup in October last year. The proposed development includes about 260,000 solar panels on a 292 hectare site on Baringhup West Road.

The estimated $195 million development has the potential to generate 75 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy. It includes plans for a utility zone with a battery storage facility, satellite construction compound, and buildings for operations and maintenance.

Council has so far received 26 objections from local landholders and interested parties, one pro forma objection with about 250 signatures opposing the development, and one submission supporting the development.

One of the main concerns about the planning application is whether the loss of productive agricultural land for a solar farm is an acceptable planning outcome.

While the solar farm could contribute to jobs and reduce greenhouse emissions to contribute to Victoria’s energy targets, there are concerns about the impact of the development on the amenity and environment in the Baringhup district.

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