Controversial Toowoomba region solar farm approved

6th April 2017 4:40 PM

A HIGHLY controversial proposed solar farm outside Pittsworth has been approved by the Toowoomba Regional Council, but only after fierce debate erupted.

The council's development assessment panel voted 6-2 in favour of the plan to built a 40-megawatt solar farm on 186ha of prime agricultural land at Yarranlea, which attracted six submissions against it.

Deputy Mayor Carol Taylor and Cr Mike Williams voted against the proposal recommended by TRC planning officer Peter Swan.

Mayor Paul Antonio, Cr James O'Shea and Cr Nancy Sommerfield were not present.

Developer Maryrorough Solar chose the land on 65 Roche Rd Yarranlea because of its proximity to a nearby substation and planned to tear down the project 30 years after it was turned on.

Objectors to the solar farm cited its placement on grazing land, the restriction of fauna movement, dust nuisance, flooding, weed management and even glare for reasons why it should not proceed.

"The hardest thing to come to terms with . . . is why a local government body that professes to support the sustainability of the agricultural industry . . . would approve an inappropriate change of such a large tract of fertile farming land," one submission said.

"We do not want to be able to see any part of this solar farm, not an inch of it," another submission wrote.

"The unsightly look of the panels, the glare that they will cause, the lights at night. We want to see none of it."

Mr Swan said the solar farm was unlikely to have any effect on the character of the landscape.

"The visual impact assessment (by the applicant) concluded that the potential for change to the landscape character as a result of the development is relatively minor," he said.

"The low, horizontal 'built form' nature of the project is compatible with similar horizontal nature of its surroundings."

In his address to the panel, Cr Williams said the best use of the land at the site was for grazing, not supporting renewable energy projects.

"I'm strongly against prime agricultural land being used for a purpose which is not in its highest production value," he said.

"I know they're looking at this location because there is a substation there and it's convenient, but there are other substations where these types of projects could be located."

Speaking in favour, Cr Bill Cahill said he considered the proposal to be "pretty reasonable."

The approval means the new solar farm joins a nearby 100MW project by Yarranlea Solar, which was approved in December.