Independent Member for Shepparton District Suzanna Sheed has welcomed the Victorian Government’s decision to ‘call in’ four local planning applications for solar farms.
Minister for Planning Richard Wynne last week announced he would appoint an independent panel to assess the applications at Congupna, Lemnos, Tallygaroopna and Tatura East after Greater Shepparton City Council requested he step in.
Ms Sheed said while it was usually preferable for councils to determine planning applications in their own municipality, the complexity of assessing solar projects in agricultural districts called for additional support.
Ms Sheed said she had raised her concerns with the Minister and urged the Government to address the lack of relevant guidelines.
“While the Greater Shepparton area enjoys plentiful sunshine year round, making it an ideal location for solar farms, it is also home to the prime agricultural land at the heart of our economy,” Ms Sheed said.
“It is important that we find a balance between renewable energy investment and the sustainable future of our farming industry.
“An independent panel will bring welcome expertise to the decision-making process and enable all parties to be heard in an appropriate forum.”
Ms Sheed said she was pleased the panel would also provide broader advice on how future solar farm projects would be assessed in Victoria.
“Renewable energy is a rapidly growing sector and I expect we will see increasing numbers of applications for solar farms across the state,” Ms Sheed said.
“If you combine that with the significant proportion of land used for agricultural purposes, there will no doubt be other councils in Victoria facing similar challenges to ours.
“I would hope the findings of this expert panel will support all councils in setting region-specific planning strategies for solar farms for the benefit of their individual communities.”
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