Corangamite Shire Council has welcomed the state government’s release of draft guidelines for large solar farms but says its commitment remains to the south-west’s principal industry, agriculture.
Corangamite mayor Jo Beard said the guidelines would have been useful when the council decided last month to refuse a planning permit for a huge 550 hectare solar farm proposed for Bookaar, north of Camperdown.
The council called at its September meeting for the state to issue planning guidelines for solar farms but Ms Beard said the lack of guidelines was not the only reason why the council knocked back the application.
The council’s decision went against the recommendation of its planning officers.
One of the partners in the project, the UK-based Infinergy company, declined to say this week whether the company would appeal the council’s decision, saying it was still considering its options.
The other partner in the project was the family of Corangamite Cr Bev McArthur, on whose Bookaar property the solar farm was to be built.
Cr Beard said the guidelines were only a draft and the council would provide input to the state government.
She said one of the reasons why the council refused the application was because of the loss of prime agricultural land.
State planning minister Richard Wynne said the draft guidelines would help inform councils, developers and communities on planning requirements for the large solar farm to ensure they were built in the right locations and were easily accessible to the electricity grid.
The guidelines would also help proposals give careful consideration to high productivity agricultural areas and sensitive landscapes, Mr Wynne said.
He said the state Labor government continued to drive investment in clean energy projects.
He also announced the government had approved a solar farm for Congupna, near Shepparton, but deferred a decision on proposals for another three in the Shepparton area until further strategic work was done.
The government earlier this year took the decision-making on the projects away from Shepparton council.
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