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Town planning law halts wind farm plans

A town planning law restricting the production of electricity on farm land has delayed plans to establish a wind farm between Kojonup and Broomehill.

The Flat Rocks Wind Farm project by Moonie Hills Energy (MHE) straddles the Kojonup and the Broomehill-Tambellup shires.

MHE withdrew its development application with the Broomehill-Tambellup Shire after it was discovered a couple of weeks ago that the existing town planning scheme did not allow council to consider the proposal.

Following an amalgamation of the two shires last year, Broomehill-Tambellup shire president Barry Webster said the new Town Planning Scheme had not yet been formulated.

In the meantime, the old Broomehill and Tambellup Town Planning Schemes were applicable.

“The original town planning schemes prohibit the production of electricity on farm land,” Mr Webster said.

All those associated with the wind farm submission had been notified in writing.

Mr Webster said the town planning scheme would need to be updated as a lot of people wanted to install alternative energy.

“If someone wanted to put solar power or wind power on their new house, it’s definitely an anomaly in there that needs to be addressed,” he said.

Mr Webster said a draft planning scheme would be available toward the end of this year but it would take until late 2013 or early 2014 before it was available for use.

A request for an amendment to the scheme would be handled quicker in about a year.

Mr Webster said if MHE made another application for its wind farm it would not be a council decision, as from July 1 this year, all applications over $7 million were referred to Development Assessment Panels (DAP), and any projects of $3m could be requested for referral to a DAP.

Mr Webster said the oversight was an unfortunate glitch that did not give certainty to either party.

Kojonup farmer Roger Bilney said the delay in MHE’s application would allow the proper care to be taken when deciding an appropriate location for wind turbines.

Mr Bilney had four properties affected by the wind farm proposal but now has only one since the application to the Broomehill-Tambellup Shire was withdrawn.

“I think in time, a clear understanding of where an appropriate location for these turbines will come out but just this minute, it’s not clear where they can be appropriately sited,” Mr Bilney said.

He said the Kojonup Shire rules were similar to the Broomehill-Tambellup Shire rules as it also prohibited anything that removed the rural amenity.

MHE director Sarah Rankin said MHE had lodged its application in November last year and it was disappointing it had taken so long to be advised the application could not be considered.

She said MHE was reviewing its options at the moment and was seriously considering requesting an amendment to Broomehill-Tambellup Shire’s town planning scheme.

She said there were no plans to halt the project.