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Locals lose $700m wind farm battle

A sprawling multimillion-dollar wind farm project can be built despite “substantial” local opposition including from the AFL’s boss, the state’s development court has ruled.

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan was among four groups that launched legal action against the $700 million project, 50km east of Adelaide, between Palmer and Tungkillio in the Mt Lofty Ranges.

The Tilt Renewables Australia wind farm, adjacent to the more than century-old McLachlan family sheep and cattle station near Mt Pleasant, was approved by Mid Murray Council in late 2015.

But locals appealed to the Environment, Resources and Development Court, arguing the turbines were an eyesore, too noisy, could make them ill and would damage flora and fauna including local wildlife.

In a judgment published yesterday, senior ERD judge Susanne Cole, together with commissioners Jennifer Nolan and Alan Rumsby, granted development approval, with a series of conditions, despite “substantial” opposition.

In a 60-page ruling dismissing the appeals, they found the 103, 165m high turbines – dotted over an 11550 ha area that will be 30km long – met local development rules. They rejected numerous noise, health, access and aesthetic fears. The plan originally had 114 turbines.

“We acknowledge that there is significant, strong objection within the local community to the changes to the landscape, which will result from the addition of (wind turbines), wires, poles and other infrastructure,” they wrote.

“However, it is not our task under the (law) to consider what the planning policy ought to be in South Australia with respect to the visual impact of (the turbines).”

After hearing highly complex expert evidence and visiting the area, they found the level of turbine “infrasound” was “no greater” than waves breaking and its characteristics were “common in everyday life”.

“As to amenity, we accept that, from time to time, the noise and appearance of the turbines and associated infrastructure will annoy some of the residents… and some visitors,” they said.

On the first day in March last year of the 17 day-long trial – held over several months – the court heard Mr McLachlan had reached an undisclosed settlement. While he remained involved, he did not attend the trial. He declined comment yesterday.

Deion Campbell, the chief executive of Tilt – formerly Trustpower – welcomed the ruling. He said detailed internal planning would start after any appeal period and following the state election – dominated by renewable energy debate. The project would be built within three years.

Tony Walker, the Eastern Mt Lofty Ranges Landscape Guardians chairman, last night said an appeal was being considered against a “puzzling” judgment. Other appealing locals, Peter Royal and Stirling McGregor, were unavailable.

They have 21 days to launch any Supreme Court appeal.