By Jeremy Sollars
Southern Downs councillors have narrowly voted five to four in favour of approving a massive solar farm in the Sladevale valley north of Warwick at a special meeting today, Wednesday 6 June.
Voting in favour of the application by Terrain Solar to install 250,000 solar panels across 300 acres in the fertile valley were Mayor Tracy 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 present in the public gallery for this afternoon’s meeting labelled the approval “disgraceful”.
A report to councillors from the council’s planning staff on the Terrain Solar plan recommended its approval, but councillors had the option of refusing it or deferring it for further consideration.
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 site in question is bounded by Jensen, Gleeson and Freestone Roads and is overlooked by Mount Tabor.
Residents applauded Cr Vic Pennisi, who told the meeting the solar farm would result in the loss of prime agricultural land and would cause significant visual damage to the local landscape.
Cr Pennisi also said he was concerned at a lack of reports from Terrain Solar on stormwater management and changes to the long-term soil structure of what is currently prime farming land.
Deputy Mayor Jo McNally told the meeting councillors can’t “pick and choose” the reports they want to receive and the council had no choice but to approve the ‘code assessable’ application as it met council’s planning rules.
Terrain Solar is being contacted for comment.