By Jeremy Sollars
Southern Downs councillors yesterday voted at their June general meeting in favour of extending the potential life of a new solar farm approved for Sladevale north of Warwick to 30 years.
The request for the extension by developers Terrain Solar was made after the overall project was approved by councillors at an earlier special meeting to decide the solar farm, held on Wednesday 6 June.
The same day the Free Times revealed online that a deal had been done between Terrain Solar and the University of Queensland for the university to take over the solar farm at the start of construction.
Councillors at the special meeting held on Wednesday 6 June voted narrowly in favour of the plan by Terrain Solar to develop the 300-acre solar farm on land bounded by Gleeson, Jensen, Robinson and Freestone Roads, consisting of 250,000 solar panels.
At the special meeting councillors approved a maximum 25-year lifespan for the solar, but Terrain Solar since requested this be extended to 30 years, voted through yesterday by Mayor Tracy Dobie and all councillors with the exception of Cr Vic Pennisi.
Voting in favour of the application by Terrain Solar at the special meeting on 6 June were Mayor Dobie, Deputy Mayor Jo McNally and Councillors Yve Stocks, Rod Kelly and Sheryl Windle.
Those in the ‘no’ camp were Councillors Vic Pennisi, Cameron Gow, Marika McNichol and Neil Meikejohn.
Residents had previously voiced concerns about a lack of time and a lack of expertise on the part of council’s planning staff to properly examine the likely impacts of the development.
Also chief among their concerns are the visual impact of 250,000 solar panels in the Sladevale valley – also known as Campbells Plains – and the loss of prime agricultural land.
The University of Queensland has refused to disclose to the Free Times details of its negotiations with both Terrain Solar and the Southern Downs Regional Council prior to the special meeting which approved the solar farm.
We have lodged a Right To Information request with the university seeking documents relating to the negotiations.