Council to speak as Planning Authority on Jims Plains farm

Council to speak as Planning Authority on Jims Plains farm

Circular Head Council will be sitting as a Planning Authority tomorrow, June 18, to discuss discretionary issues with a planning permit submitted by UPC Renewables.

The application was made for the construction of a renewable energy park at Jims Plains that will consist of up to 31 wind turbines and an array of solar panels. 

This equipment will have a combined generating capacity of 240 MW. The application has been assessed concurrently with the Environmental Protection Authority in accordance with the Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act.

When council sit as a Planning Authority body they are only free to make decisions on a discretionary basis, meaning that council can only approve or disprove of aspects of the proposed plan that go against compliance standards.

During this time council also hear replies received as part of a public exhibition period, in which community members are free to share their opinions and voice concerns. This period took place from December 7, 2019 to January 29, 2020 and was advertised in The Advocate.

The discretionary issues that council will discuss on Thursday night include the requirement for a discretionary use (utility) on rural resource zoned land; the configuration and location of some of the wind turbines being within 10 metres of side and rear boundaries; the source of a potable water supply for during the operation of the use; the height of the proposed wind turbines and meteorological masts being greater than 20 metres and the location of the temporary laydown area and office building being within 30 metres of a watercourse.

The recommendation to council is that for the discretionary issues the relevant performance criteria have been met, with all other developmental standards being assessed as meeting the acceptable solutions specified in the Planning Scheme.

The application was also referred to the EPA to assess a number of key factors that could be impacted by the wind farm including: flora, fauna (including avifauna) and habitat, weed and disease management, surface and ground water quality, air emissions and quality, noise emissions and shadow flicker, waste and hazardous substances, social and economic issues, decommissioning and rehabilitation and the monitoring and enforcement during operational lifespan.

Having received the application the EPA allowed the wind farm to proceed subject to conditions and notified council of this decision on April 17.

During the public exhibition phase a number of expressions of concerns were received as well as a number of statements of support. 21 issues were identified, with 21 responses provided in writing for council’s consideration tomorrow.

The planning authority item is the first thing on the agenda after the opening of council’s monthly meeting on June 18. Public question time will be held before that.

Due to COVID-19 there are restrictions and positions are first in best dressed. The meeting is scheduled to go ahead at 6pm at the Circular Head Community Recreation Centre.

The Jims Plain Wind Farm has been a topic of debate amongst the community for years. Picture courtesy of the Circular Head Council’s June 18 agenda.