Looking to expedite hearing on solar farm
Country-wide Energy and motel owners to meet at VCAT today
AN energy company has made moves to expedite a civil hearing over an objection to a 20-megawatt solar farm it wants to build at North Wangaratta.
Country-wide Energy (CWE) and complainant North Wangaratta Family Motel Inn will attend a special hearing at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) today following an application by the power company to move the case forward.
Owner of the motel Jayson Nichols lodged an objection to VCAT against the establishment of the large scale solar farm that would stretch 15 hectares adjacent to the business.
Mr Nichols cited his concerns about excessive noise generated by the 70,000 solar panels, a negative impact to tourism, and a fire hazard.
The earliest hearing date for the case was in February but the six month wait has been projected to cost CWE $15 million in lost revenue.
CWE director Geoff Drucker said today’s hearing is to get an earlier hearing date through the process of elevating the project to a ‘major case status’.
“We have tried to work with the motel owners and are still open to hearing from them about how we can alter our plans to address some of their concerns,” he said.
Council’s chief executive officer Brendan McGrath had arranged to meet with Mr Nichols to discuss the issues, however, council reported that the latter cancelled the meeting and it has not been held.
Based on an inability to mediate the concerns of the motel owners to date, Mr Drucker said they made an application to VCAT to speed up the process.
However, Mr Nichols told the Chronicle yesterday that they will have to close the motel today so he and partner Emmalee can attend the hearing in Melbourne.
He said they have had to cancel seven bookings as they were only notified about the hearing on Wednesday afternoon.
Mr Drucker said CWE was also only told of today’s hearing on Wednesday.
“Unfortunately they started the VCAT process so if they want to proceed they will need to follow that process,” he said.
Mr Nichols said they would fight the case all the way and they were not happy with the way they have been treated by CWE and council.
“Rather than let our business die a slow death once the prison fences go up, we will throw everything we have at saving it,” Mr Nichols said.