A wind farm slated for central Victoria will head to court this month after a local council refused to approve the development, despite a positive report from planning officers.
Infigen Energy hopes to erect 16 turbines at Cherry Tree outside Seymour, 120km north of Melbourne, but has faced stiff opposition from residents.
It will now pursue its claim in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, fighting Mitchell Shire’s unanimous verdict that the wind farm “failed to demonstrate a net community benefit”.
The council, which received 118 objections and five letters of support for the $100 million wind farm, found the turbines would negatively affect the agricultural landscape.
It made its decision in spite of an internal report from a planning officer who recommended approving the development.
“The wind energy facility is suitably located to limit impact on any significant landscape or to be detrimental to visual amenity,” the report said.
“The wind energy facility has been designed to limit amenity impacts on surrounding properties with matters of noise, shadow flicker, blade glint and electromagnetic interference all within acceptable limits.”
Ursula James and her family are members of a opposition group that will send its own legal team to the VCAT hearing.
Ms James, whose two sons have Asperger syndrome, said she worried about additional background noise exacerbating their condition.
“My kids are both sensitive to noises,” she said. “We moved out here for the peace and quiet.
“A wind farm is going to be constantly going, and depending on the direction of the wind we’ll definitely hear it here.”
Infigen senior development and government affairs manager Jonathan Upson said the plan to build the wind farm on an isolated plateau had raised little initial opposition when first proposed three years ago, but a scare campaign about potential health effects gained traction in the community.
“We had an 80m wind monitoring tower up for well over a year and nobody even noticed it,” he said.
“We were disappointed the councillors came to this decision and ignored the advice of their own planning experts.”
The VCAT hearing is also expected to hear from the Department of Sustainability and Environment, which has foreshadowed possible issues for species biodiversity and local bird life.
The case is due to start at the end of the month and run for nearly three weeks.
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