A large crowd gathered at the Warwick Town Hall to share their thoughts and concerns about a proposed $100 million solar farm in the Freestone Valley.
A large crowd gathered at the Warwick Town Hall to share their thoughts and concerns about a proposed $100 million solar farm in the Freestone Valley. Marian Faa

$100m solar farm could be approved within weeks

RESIDENTS passionately opposing a proposed $100-million solar farm are concerned a decision to approve the solar farm could be rushed through with "insufficient" information at hand.

"Is the council able to categorically confirm they have the expertise in house to assess this application?" Mt Tabor resident Meryl Strand asked the mayor in a public meeting last night.

If the state government approves a 154-hectare solar farm at a site in Freestone valley by this Thursday, the application will go to a vote at the next council meeting on May 23.

This would leave just seven days for Southern Downs councillors to consider the development application, which they have not yet seen.

 

Southern Downs mayor Tracy Dobie said she called for the final decision on whether or not to approve a $100 million solar farm to go to to council despite the application now being
Southern Downs mayor Tracy Dobie said she called for the final decision on whether or not to approve a $100 million solar farm to go to to council despite the application now being "code assessable" under amendments to planning scheme. Marian Faa

But a Brisbane-based town planner contracted to represent concerned Southern Downs residents said the information report provided by the applicant was "insufficient".

Melissa Vouros was backed by a passionate crowd last night as she questioned the council at a community meeting to discuss the proposal.

"How does council think the information that has been submitted for assessment was sufficient in terms of the assessment you are required to make against the planning scheme," Mr Vouros said.

She said the 85-page report lodged by Terrain Solar was "preliminary" and based on assumptions.

"It has taken me three weeks to get my head around this proposal, and I am a town planner," Ms Vouros said.

"They are relying on the low population of Warwick to avoid providing a detailed report."

Another resident called the report "disgusting".

"I wouldn't let my 9-year-old submit something like that," he said.

 

A large crowd of concerned residents turned up to voice their opinions, despite the lack of advertising surrounding community consultation.
A large crowd of concerned residents turned up to voice their opinions, despite the lack of advertising surrounding community consultation. Marian Faa

At this stage the council has not asked Terrain Solar for additional information on the project.

"If councillors aren't satisfied with the with report the councillors won't make that decision. We can defer it and make a decision at a later date," Cr Dobie said.

Under very recent changes to the Southern Downs Planning Scheme designed to cut red tape for developers, the solar farm application has become "code assessable".

This means it could get the green light from other council staff without approval from councillors and without public consultation.

"I've asked that it come to a council meeting and that it not be processed by council officers and that is out of respect for you and the concerns that you have raised," Cr Dobie said.

"That is why we are here - to listen to the concerns of the community."

Frustration, bewilderment and fear for the future of the region were the overwhelming sentiments of a large crowd who appeared at the Town Hall to discuss the development.

The impact of the proposed farm on prime agricultural land, scenic views and land values stood out among a long list of concerns voiced by residents.


Fresh faces join police ranks

Fresh faces join police ranks

THEY'RE the fresh faces tasked with looking after our community

Sounds from around the world

Sounds from around the world

THE SOUNDS of cultures from across the globe will delight the ears

Police call for witnesses after 14-year-old struck by car

Police call for witnesses after 14-year-old struck by car

Police allege the girl had looked both ways before crossing street

Local Partners