December 24, 2011

New controls for wind farms

BRONWYN FARR, The Land, 23 December 2011

Tough new controls will be placed on all wind farm applications to protect communities from noise, visual pollution and bushfire risks, under draft guidelines approved by the NSW Government.

The Land understands under draft guidelines approved by the Government, no wind farm will be approved unless it passes an exhaustive community consultation process.

Where residents have objections which are not resolved, an independent panel will be called in to determine whether a development application should even be lodged.

“In other words, wind farms are not going to be built in NSW where they are not suitable,” a Government source said.

“We are going to ensure any community concerns are dealt with before a wind farm is built – not after they become a problem.”

The draft guidelines were developed after extensive consultation with key stakeholders including industry, proponents, landholders and regional communities. They will now be open for public comment before a final position is taken by the NSW Government.

The draft guidelines give landholders – those with proposed wind farm developments within two kilometres of their properties – greater rights to oppose development applications.

Anyone proposing to build a wind farm will be required to consult with landholders within a 2km radius before submitting a development application.

In cases where objections exist, wind farm developments will to go through a ‘Gateway’ process to address community concerns before the application can be lodged.

A Joint Regional Planning Panel will then determine whether the development application is suitable for lodging.

Once the planning process is underway:

Applicants will be required to establish a community consultation committee;

Turbines will be banned from being located closer than a distance equivalent to turbine height from a public road or an objecting neighbour’s property;

Applicants will be required to provide detailed information on the potential impacts on neighbours within 2km, including noise, visual, aircraft aviation, and bushfire impacts;

Cumulative impacts from existing wind farms and new developments will need to be accounted for;

Wind farm operators must retain responsibility for decommissioning and may be required to pay a bond in some cases;

Development applications will need to be publicly exhibited for 60 days

The NSW Government was well aware that wind farm developments have caused significant concern in local communities and that is why these guidelines are so important, a senior source said.

The draft guidelines will be put on exhibition on the Department of Planning’s website.

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