Former Moorabool mayor Pat Toohey has shot back at wind farm company West Wind as it seeks $100,000 in legal costs after a bitter planning tribunal battle.
The Weekly reported last month that the developer of the seven-turbine Moorabool wind project and a 64-turbine project in Lal Lal was seeking legal compensation from the council following a Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal hearing.
The appeal was in response to the council’s decision to grant five planning permits for five dwellings on land next to West Wind’s project in Ballan.
With the nearest dwelling to be just 226 metres from a turbine, West Wind project developer Phil Burn said they were approved contrary to the planning officer’s report. He claimed it was “a thinly veiled attack” on the project.
The dispute was taken to VCAT after the council refused to amend or cancel the permits. Mediation was held, with the landowner agreeing to cancel one permit and relocate the other four proposed sites further from turbines.
But Cr Toohey said the landowner was simply exercising his right to build on his farm. “West Wind have used heavy-handed, bullying tactics on this. People’s rights next to these turbines have never been put under consideration.”
Cr Toohey said residents living on more than 40hectares weren’t required to apply to the council for a permit to build. It was only when applying to build more than three buildings that they had to go through the planning process.
Cr Toohey also directed angry comments towards Greens state leader Greg Barber, after the senator claimed the council had gone against its own planning scheme in order to garner support from wind farm objectors. “Greg needs to get a hold of the planning documents. He clearly has no idea on farming landowners.”
Mr Barber maintained the council had wasted ratepayers’ money by fighting a case “they knew they couldn’t win”.
“I’m a former councillor myself and I know it’s better to be upfront with your community about what the planning rules are.”
Mr Burn said the council’s planners drafted five reports, all stating that a permit was required under the Moorabool planning scheme to build a dwelling. “Our approach is not heavy handed, nor do we seek to stop development near our projects, but councillors must fulfil their responsibilities and prevent future land use conflicts.”
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