A Benalla Rural City councillor is concerned that proper procedures have been overlooked in an attempt to ‘‘rush through’’ a 249ha solar farm.
Cr Peter Davis said the issue did not officially land on his table until four days before the council was scheduled to discuss it, which he called ‘‘bad governance’’.
At the council’s last meeting of the year, a 23-page planning application report was seen by the councillors and Mayor Don Firth.
The report detailed a proposal for an 85 megawatt solar farm, enough to power about 52000 homes.
It was estimated that 319440 panels would be installed along a 249ha parcel of land along Winton Glenrowan Rd.
Cr Davis said for the size of the project, he would have thought that processes would have been followed to the letter.
‘‘Normally issues like this will go through firstly a business review, which is discussed by councillors and staff,’’ Cr Davis said.
‘‘Then it will go to the planning and development committee where the community can have their input and make submissions before it goes to council — but the committee wasn’t called this time.
‘‘To the letter of the law they’ve done nothing wrong, you don’t have to always use the planning and development committee, but usually by that stage everyone has been able to have a say and sort the things out that they’re not sure about.
‘‘It’s not illegal, it’s just bad governance.’’
Because the committee did not convene, Cr Davis believes proper consultation did not happen.
‘‘It’s a substantial project for the community and I would have expected exhaustive consultation to take place — but it did not,’’ he said. ‘‘Just talking to neighbours, all the consultation they’d had was a letter in the mailbox.’’
Cr Davis said after the solar farm was approved, he understood there would be more solar farms in the pipeline.
‘‘The other concern for me now is that if there are to be more solar farms, are we setting a precedent that we won’t look too closely at the project and just green light it?’’ he said.