A divided Upper Lachlan Council has rejected an application by Goldwind to lay underground cables along Bannister area roads to connect Gullen Range wind turbines to the grid.
The cable would enable the northern part of the wind farm to connect to the grid, mainly via Price’s Lane and Leary’s Lane.
At last Thursday’s meeting, the Council decided by 5 votes to three to say no to the Goldwind application.
The likely result of this is that Goldwind will approach the State Planning Department, which has the power to over-ride the Council decision.
The meeting business paper had listed the application for closed session, citing “commercial information in confidence” as the reason.
However, Mayor Cr. John Shaw allowed a notice of motion by Cr. Malcolm Barlow rejecting the application to be heard in open session.
Council had received 14 letters strongly opposing the application, and the public gallery was packed for the debate.
Cr. Shaw invited a resident of the area, Mr. Humphrey Price-Jones, to address Council prior to the debate.
Mr. Price-Jones said that the area affected by the wind farm had already been subjected to “significant devastation.”
The decision about the underground cable along the roads “lies with the local Council,” he said.
Mr. Price-Jones claimed the Environmental Impact Statement attached to Goldwind’s development was “fundamentally flawed,” and that nowhere did it suggest that Pride’s Lane would be used as part of the development.
“Just what the developer does if Council refused permission is entirely up to the developer,” he said.
He claimed the development plan did not comply with Council’s DCP,that ten cottages lay within 2 kilometres of towers, and that within 4 kilometres 100 dwellings were adversely affected.
“This is an opportunity for Council to draw a line in the sand, that it is not going to be dictated to by this developer,” Mr. Price-Jones added.
Goldwind, he said, already had control of a large part of the Shire, and now wanted to dig roads up.
“Kialla Road is already breaking up,” Mr. Price-Jones said.
It was reasonable, he said, that all dealing with the developer should be transparent.
He raised some eyebrows with the remark that the question could be asked “what kind of relationship Council had with the developers.”
Before debate began Cr. Brian McCormack declared an interest, as his brother’s property lay within the development area. Cr. McCormack stayed at the Council table, but took no part in the debate and did not vote.
Cr. Barlow gave five reasons for his motion to reject the application:
1. The project largely failed to comply with Council’s “well researched and community supported” DCP, in the matter of set-backs, and in compliance with hours of operation.
2. Access to the grid: because wind farms to date had to be cited reasonably close to the grid, placing some limitation of the spread of wind farms. If this proposal is permitted wind farms could be sited almost anywhere in the Shire using Council roads to gain access.
3. No mention was made in the original application that cable would be laid along Leary’s Lane, no mention of Council ownership and no mention that Council permission must be sought.
4. Council should stand up for its ratepayers against overseas developers.
5. Other impacts, such as local traffic inconvenience, maintenance (including ruts occurring), and cable repairs.
Cr. Barlow also queried whether the cable would go along or across Range Road.
Director of Works Mr. Phil Newham pointed out that the maps used by Goldwind in its development plans showed Price’s Lane running the full length, and no mention of Leary’s Lane.
Cr. Jo Marshall asked what would happen if Council rejected the application.
General Manager Mr. John Bell: “The developer will go straight back to the Department of Planning – who would likely come down on the side of the developer.”
Cr. Darren O’Brien supported the motion.
“I think we should do as Malcolm says; at the end of the day the Department will take it away from us anyway – let them be the bad guys.”
Cr. James Wheelwright opposed the motion.
He pointed out that Council would get the affected roads sealed as a result of the cable laying because of negotiations with Goldwind.
If the decision goes back to the Planning Department the negotiations would be negated.
Another option would be poles being erected along the road verges.
“We would get a sealed road out of it that we would not get otherwise,” Cr. Wheelwright said.
Cr. Barlow: “I know for a fact that the people along Price’s Lane would rather have a gravel road than turbines on their doorstep.
“I know they will win with the Department, but we can show them up for what they are, bullies, and we will have stood up for our local ratepayers.”
Put to the vote, four Councillors (Crs. Barlow, Searl, O’Brien and Craig) in favour, three (Crs. Marshall, Culhane and Wheelwright) against.
Mayor Cr. Shaw was thus in the position to approve or reject the motion.
With some hesitancy he said: “I’m going to vote for it, though I’m probably wrong – we’ll find out.”
His declaration that the motion was carried was greeted with loud applause by the gallery.
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