The Department of Planning has recommended to the independendent Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) that a $670-million wind farm development near Yass not go ahead.
On Tuesday Bookham residents cracked open bottles of champagne in a toast to the Department’s decision.
After seven years of waiting the PAC will now make a final decision on whether Epuron’s development will move forward.
A Department of Planning and Environment Spokesperson said that in September last year the Minister for Planning announced that all wind farm development applications will automatically be referred to the PAC to strengthen independence and maximise the community’s opportunity to have a say.
“The proposal is to build and operate a Yass Valley Wind Farm, consisting of up to 134 wind turbines around 20 kilometres west of Yass,” the Spokesperson said
The application was submitted in 2008 and Epuron Construction Manager Andrew Wilson said that it is the longest application process he has seen.
“Usually they take around two years to be processed, but there has been a lot of resistance and waiting,” Mr Wilson said.
“We are extremely surprised by the assessment report and are still in the process of digesting it and trying to understand the implications.
“We don’t know the process, the PAC is the determining authority, until that is determined we don’t know how much input we will have in the process.”
The Departments spokesperson said that it has carefully assessed the proposal, with feedback from the community and government agencies, and the applicant’s response to that feedback.
“Despite working closely with the applicant and clearly outlining the high quality of information, the Department needs to carry out an accurate assessment, the application did not include enough detail for us to confidently predict the impacts,” the spokesperson said.
“The uncertainty means we have recommended the PAC does not approve the proposal and that the wind farm does not proceed.”
Submissions from the community and various Government departments raised concerns with impacts to aviation around both Canberra and Albury airports, as well as the possibility of the turbines interfering with nearby air traffic control radar systems.
“The proposal is also estimated to impact around 225 hectares of vegetation, of which almost 90 per cent is endangered box-gum woodland. The proposal includes construction on land which the applicant has not secured from its owners,” the spokesperson said.
“The PAC will now make a decision about the project, taking into account community feedback and the Department’s assessment.”
Independent Chair of the Community Consultation Committee (CCC), Nic Carmody, said that he will be interested to find out the response of the PAC following the department’s suggestions.
“PAC is supposed to be independent, yet its ‘employer’ [the Department of Planning and Environment] recommends refusal. It will be interesting to see if they have the same view as their boss.
“He who pays the piper, calls the tune,” he added.
To view the Department’s assessment of the proposal visit the Major Projects website at www.majorprojects.planning.nsw.gov.au.
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