A wind farm has won the right to keep turbines which were once ruled to have been built in the wrong spots, in some cases too close to homes.
The Gullen Range Wind Farm near Goulburn was found to have built 69 of its 73 turbines between 2m to 180m away from the approved locations, some within the 2km limit to neighbouring homes.
Last October the Planning Assessment Commission rejected a bid for retrospective approval because the turbines “would have significant visual impact” on nearby residents. The NSW Department of Planning and Environment then ruled that nine of the turbines were illegal and must be removed.
But when Chinese-owned parent company Goldwind launched action in the Land and Environment Court, the state government referred the project back to the Planning Assessment Commission.
The PAC now says “the change in the turbine locations does not make a substantive difference to the visual impacts” and the wind farm has been granted approval.
Resident and NSW Landscape Guardians chairman David Brooks said the government’s embarrassing backflip was disgraceful.
“The PAC has done a 180degree U-turn,” he said.
“Last October they rejected the whole thing, now they approve it. What the department has done is to sort of rewrite the whole thing so they can get the result they wanted. It is just playing with words.”
The PAC noted the wind farm had purchased two properties most affected by the incorrect turbine placement, ruling such purchases had “mostly” mitigated any visual impact on residents.
But Mr Brooks claimed hundreds of residents were still left with obscured views, including turbines which were now significantly closer than originally approved.
“I don’t think there is much we can do now,” he said. “It is pretty clear that the entire planning institution is digging its heels in.”
A department spokesman said the farm gained approval after objections from the most significantly affected landowners were withdrawn because they had come to an arrangement with the company, and “an independent ecologist advised that the new location of the turbines would result in fewer impacts than the original design”.
He added approval was under “strict conditions” which would be monitored, “including spot checks to make sure (the company) is meeting its conditions of approval”.
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