A mad dash by wind farm developers to the permit finish line has left councillors and landholders incensed after one project was approved without local knowledge.
Energy project co-ordinator Wind Farm Developments has gained approval to construct turbines on a property near Woolsthorpe without consulting Moyne Shire, councillors have claimed.
The 20-turbine wind farm has been on the drawing board for about a decade with a planning permit submitted in 2006 and approved by then planning minister Justin Madden in April 2008.
In the past few weeks Wind Farm Developments, along with a number of other renewable energy developers, have sought to shore up projects before the state government’s new guidelines kick in over the next fortnight.
Woolsthorpe landholders John Anscombe and Paul Lewis were unimpressed by the snap decision by Wind Farm Developments to start work without first flagging it to the community.
“Look, we’re not angry about it but it’s pretty ordinary that they haven’t bothered to consult us,” Mr Lewis said.
“I mean, we don’t know how they’ll access the site, the location of turbines and so on. Plenty of questions have been left unanswered.”
Cr Colin Ryan said landholders and councillors were unimpressed by the approach taken by Wind Farm Developments.
He said construction work was due to start on Monday without any proper consultation with surrounding landholders.
“I’m not against wind farms per se, we have worked well with a number of wind energy companies in the past few years,” Cr Ryan said.
“Having said that, the way this company have failed to consult council and residents is very poor.
“The trucks will roll in next week and no one locally as any idea about what the project really involves and whether there’s been any changes.”
Cr Ken Gale said he was shocked by the developer’s decision to circumvent local government and claimed the company’s actions would not be well received in the wider community.
Wind Farm Developments director Alistair Wilson said early works on the Woolsthorpe project involved the construction of all-weather access tracks, a site compound, onsite hard stand areas, fencing of no go areas and other entry-level works.
He said the farm was a small project and construction would have minimal impact on the surrounding area.
“Work will begin on the Woolsthorpe wind farm after years of working through the many processes involved in developing such a project,” Mr Wilson said.
He said the wind farm would be developed on a single 750-hectare farm, about four kilometres west of the Woolsthorpe township.
The state government will introduce new restrictions on wind farm developments by the end of the month, as promised by the Coalition at the 2010 state election.
The renewable energy reforms include new setback guidelines which will enforce a two-kilometre buffer zone between households and turbines, among other measures.
Wind Farm Developments also plans to build a wind farm near Cobden at Naroghid as well as the controversial The Sisters project.
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