Look­ing to ex­pe­dite hear­ing on so­lar farm

Coun­try-wide En­ergy and mo­tel own­ers to meet at VCAT to­day

Wangaratta Chronicle - - Front Page - BY STEVE KELLY

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.

skelly@ ne­me­dia.com.au

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