Solar farm only on the ‘backburner’ opponents warn
OPPONENTS of a $15 million solar farm proposed for Nana Glen are relieved the application has been withdrawn but fear it's not the end of the matter.
It was due to be determined by the Northern Region Planning Panel at a public meeting on December 4 but on Tuesday afternoon the panel released a statement saying the application had been withdrawn.
Chris Clarke is the spokesperson for the residents' group which spent months fighting the proposal, saying it would be a glary eyesore and dramatically reduce property values.
"It's fantastic that Rio Indygen (the UK company behind it) has withdrawn their application but I am mindful that at any time down the track that company or another company could do the same thing and put in another application," Mr Clarke said.
"I think this matter is just on the back burner for now."
The proposal, which would have involved 50,000 solar panels on two properties on either side of Ferretts Rd has led to deep divisions within the community and Mr Clarke is hoping the recent developments will ease the tension.
"I am very, very happy for residents particularly in Ferretts Rd - some have been under medical treatment for anxiety and depression since this has all come to light.
"The amount of stress is extreme but I'm very hesitant in saying this matter is put to rest."
News that the proposal was being withdrawn came shortly after it was revealed Coffs Harbour City Council would not support it.
Due to the type and considerable value of the development, it was considered 'regional development' and therefore a matter ultimately for the State Government's Northern Regional Planning Panel (NRPP) to determine.
"All matters raised by council were not insurmountable like in relation to the lack of Aboriginal heritage studies or a proper environmental plan and the fact they didn't address noise and vibration impacts adequately," Mr Clarke said.
"So they could look at those objections and work towards meeting them. One of the presiding factors was the flood prone nature of the land so that may cause them to look elsewhere."
Initial planning documents stated the farm would operate for up to 25 years, after which all above-ground components would be removed and the land restored to its former agricultural potential but Mr Clarke has always questioned the location for that very reason.
"I'm not against solar - I've said it over and over again - I live off the grid and plan to put more in but the paddocks in line for the solar farm are currently running cattle.
"There are thirty head of cattle in one and twenty in the other - I would call that agricultural land - so it shouldn't be cleared to make way for a solar farm.
"Rural land is becoming more limited with people walking off their properties out west so coastal regions will be called on to grow more of the produce we rely on, otherwise we will need to start importing more food."
Rio Indygen were contacted for comment but once again declined the Advocate's request.