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Plan tests the wind

Planning approval for a 60-metre wind testing tower does not automatically mean a wind farm will be allowed on the relevant Granite Belt property, Southern Downs Regional Council planning director Ken Harris said at the general meeting yesterday.

Councillor Mally McMurtrie said she watched a recent documentary on wind farms, and while she was still unsure of the impacts on nearby residents, she was concerned if council allowed the testing tower to be erected, it wouldn’t be able to stop the owner from developing a wind farm if the test results were positive.

A number of submissions were made against the wind monitoring tower, which is just 300 metres from Rabbit Fence Road, from nearby landholders also concerned about the potential impact on them, especially if a wind farm was allowed.

Mr Harris said the applicant would have to come back to council and go through a whole new set of hoops before it was allowed to do that.

“We have to look at each application on its individual merits,” he said.

He said council would come to a decision but then government experts would also be consulted.

Councillor Ross Bartley agreed with the sentiment.

“I think Cr McMurtrie’s is concerned about the perception,” he said. “That perception is, if someone gets their foot in the door they are okay to continue.

“The public need to know they have to do a completely different thing.”

The purpose of the wind monitoring tower is to gather information on prevailing winds as a precursor to assessing the viability of a wind farm to generate electricity.

Councillors approved the planning application but said before any expansion was considered, they would look at similar projects in surrounding areas.

Mayor Ron Bellingham said they would be looking carefully at the proximity to residents.

“I have seen the massive wind farm just north of Canberra,” he said.

“I’m surprised, to say the least, at the proximity of it to some of those houses.

“I would hate to live close to a wind farm and I’d hate for any of my constituents to have to.”

Meanwhile, an application was also approved, subject to conditions, for a solar farm at the Summit.