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Wind farm win ignites community anger

In a landmark judgment that could set the precedent for community litigation against wind farm developments in South Australia, the Adelaide environmental court has ruled in favour of AGL’s Hallett 3 project at Mt Bryan.

Handing down its judgment on the state’s first case of this kind, the Environment, Resources and Development Court cleared the way for the proposed $180 million wind farm.

“The decision of the Council to grant development plan consent will be confirmed, subject to some minor variations to the conditions imposed,” the judgment by Judge Susanne Cole, Commissioner Terry Mosel and Commissioner John Agnew said.

Some Mt Bryan residents had appealed against the 33-wind turbine project, citing visual amenity and noise concerns.

The court accepted evidence that the wind farm will “comply sufficiently” with relevant noise standards and said it was up to regulatory bodies generating the policies and standards to look at raising them.

“Views of the landscape will not be obstructed by the turbines, but they will form a new element in the landscape,” the court said.

A second appeal is ongoing in the ERD court against Acciona’s $175 million Allendale East wind farm.

A source close to the Mt Bryan case, who did not want to be named, said the judgment changes the dynamics and sets a precedent for other cases that are sure to follow.

“As a consequence of this decision, opponents to such projects around South Australia can now see that the demand for renewable energy outweighs any community concerns,” he said.

An AGL spokesperson said: “The judgement sets an important precedent for the industry by reinforcing the applicability of established development processes”.

“The appeal has caused some delay to the progress of the development of the wind farm, but we are pleased that we can now continue to move forward.”

AGL has Hallett 1 and Hallett 2 wind farms already operational in the region, and is currently also constructing Hallett 4 and Hallett 5.

The appellants are considering the merits of taking their appeal to the Supreme Court.

Dr Sarah Laurie, medical director of the Waubra Foundation, which is studying the health effects of wind turbines on rural communities, was disappointed with the decision.

“There is growing evidence of rural Australians living near wind farms becoming very ill due to chronic sleep deprivation related to noise from the wind turbines.

“I am concerned that the current process is greatly biased towards the developers, who have significant financial resources.”