Crookwell Crooks: Goldwind Slammed for its “Rules are for Fools” Approach

brando

No Tony, rules are made for ordinary people, not for us.

The Gullen Range wind farm has been a disaster from the get go (see our post here) – with hundreds of homes lined up as sonic torture traps (see our post here). There are 32 non-involved residences within 1.5 km of the turbines; about 60 within 2 km; and 118 within 3 km. Within 5 km there are about 240 non-involved residences.

The planning “process” has been high farce from go to whoa. The locations of 69 of the 73 turbines were changed from those authorised in the Project Approval, without the proponent, Goldwind bothering to seek approval for the changes; until after the event. Why bother when you’ve got the Department in your back pocket, hey?

The so-called “independent” Environmental Representative – Erwin Budde – whose job was to ensure compliance with the planning permit, is anything but independent. Budde – is the Director of a consultancy that has been flat-out working for the proponent since 2007. Budde was, apparently, quite happy to sign off on all the developer’s location changes, which the Department of Planning now accepts were unauthorised (see our post here).

In a “too late she cried” decision, the Planning Assessment Commission has slammed the developer for its flagrant breaches of its planning permit as “inconsistent with the intent and spirit of the Draft NSW Planning Guidelines.”

Here’s the Crookwell Gazette detailing the scale of Goldwind’s arrogant “rules are for fools” approach to wind farm development.

Commission comes down against wind turbine changes
Crookwell Gazette
3 October 2014

The Planning Assessment Commission which has investigated the non-compliance by Goldwind developers of the Gullen Range wind farm has come down heavily against the developers.

In its findings released today, Friday October 3, 2014, the Commission declared the application for modification of the original approval was “inconsistent with the intent and spirit of the Draft NSW Planning Guidelines.”

Further, the Commission found that “the application, if approved, would have significant visual impact on the non-associated residences and the proposed vegetation screening would not be able to mitigate the impact on all affected residences to an acceptable level.”

The Commission’s findings were signed by chairman Mr. Garry Payne AM and Mr. Richard Thorp.

In its finding, the Commission stated “it does not consider the benefit of the proposed modification outweighs the potential adverse impacts on the community, the rural and natural environment or on non-associated properties.”

The Gullen Range Wind Farm was originally approved by the Department of Planning in June, 2009.

This decision was upheld in an appeal to the Land and Environment Court.

However, the developers placed 69 of the 73 turbines away from the originally approved plan, 68% by less than 50 metres, others of significant distance, up to 187 metres.

An Environmental Assessment of the changes made to the positions of many of the 70-some turbines recommended that approval for modification for most be given, with one to be the subject of negotiations with a neighbouring landholder, and another to be moved back to its approved position – 187 metres away.

Most of the turbines have already been commissioned, and the remainder are currently being wired for operation.

In the finding, Mr. Payne said the commission had to consider every modification application on its merits “even if a breach has occurred – which means the Commission must consider the application in the same way it would have done if the turbines had not yet been erected.”

During its investigations, the Commission met with the developers, who claimed that project approval only provided an indicative turbine layout, and that the final layout is consistent with the approval.

The Commission had meetings with the Department of Planning, with individual owners of land affected by the wind farm, with Upper Lachlan Council, as well as calling a public meeting at Crookwell, where they heard from 39 speakers.

One argument put to the Commission at the Crookwell meeting urged refusal of the application arguing that a proponent who breached the planning legislation “should not be rewarded for committing that breach by validation of the wrongdoing.

It was argued that the turbines had been erected in breach of the original approval, and this breach should be remedied before any consideration given to any application.

The Commission met with non-host landowners Mr. and Mrs. Sam Hyde, who raised concern about the impact of turbines on their property value and noise.

“The background noise level of 48 dBA was regarded as unreasonable on a rural property,” the Commission noted.

The Hydes had been unable to sell their property, even at a 33% deduction in price.

Mr. Humphrey Price-Jones had told the Commission that the independent environmental representative had actually worked on the project and therefore was not independent.

Upper Lachlan Council advised the erected turbines were impacting radio frequencies, and public roads damaged in the construction phase should be repaired in their entirety as patch fixing caused ongoing issues.

In making their decision against the wind farm developers, the Commission noted the original wind farm approval had up to 49 non-associated residences within 2 kilometres of a turbine.

“However, the current modification seeks to locate many of these turbines even closer to non-associated residents.”

It found the developer’s proposal was inconsistent with “the intent and spirit of the draft guidelines, which proposes a 2 km distance between turbine and non-associated residence unless agreed to be the landowner or a site compatibility certificate issued.”

The Commission agreed that the increased proximity of the turbines to non-associated residences would result in visual impact on these properties.

“The proposed vegetation screening may in some instances by ultimately sufficient to reduce/block the view, but the vegetation screen itself will change the outlook and vista of the residence.

“In other cases the screen will not be adequate to mitigate the imposing view of a close-by turbine.”

On depreciated land values, the Commission noted that this was not a planning issue, but this aspect require further research and consideration..

The noise factor was a matter for the Environmental Protection Authority, not the Planning Department – “the EPA, with technical specialists in the field, is equipped the ensure the wind farm complies with noise conditions.”

In making its determination, the Commission declared it had “carefully considered the proposal, its associated impacts, the Assessment Report, stakeholders’ submissions and views expressed at various meetings, including the public meeting (at Crookwell).”
Crookwell Gazette

The PAC’s determination is available here: Signed Gullen Range Determination Report 2.10.14

And the document setting out the PAC’s refusal of the developer’s modification application is available here: Signed Refusal Instrument Gullen Range Mod 1 2.10.14

dirtyrottenscoundrelsoriginal

We’ve found that it’s always easier to ask
for forgiveness than to ask for permission.

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.

Comments

  1. Excuse me for being uncommonly rude… how dare they build in another country, ours, and not bend over backwards to abide by the rules …they should pay up, pack up and leave, every single last law breaking one.

  2. Jackie Rovenksy, says:

    This is an instance where the Federal Government could come in to ensure the health of its citizens is not damaged. The Federal Government created a process by which each State was to organise planning processes. As they did not ensure that the planning processes that each state created were to a standard where they could not be sidelined or abused by anyone, it is their responsibility to do something about this situation.

    The ability for any industrialist to be able to move things around after approval has been granted opens the door to abuse at every level. These projects should have had all their turbines and other installations researched and set ‘in stone’ before they submitted an application. To allow ‘minor’ changes at the will of the industrialist is farcical, under this sort of system an industrialist could place a factory in the middle of what was to be an intersection of roads, and everything else would then have to be re-planned to accommodate it – laughable. But it’s the same principle.

    Just because this company is foreign owned it does not mean they should be allowed to continue to ignore not only planning permission but a Commission’s decision.

    They should be compelled to take the offending turbines down and not be given permission to re-site them anywhere else. If they were not suitable for the position on the application then they are not suitable to be placed anywhere else.

    People and the environment before damaging industrialisation.

  3. Grant Winberg says:

    A disaster in the making. The Planning Commission has obviously decided that developers need to comply with the planning laws. Now it’s time for the Government to enforce the authorisation given by the Land and Environment Court. The turbines and substation should be decommissioned and located as authorised and construction and operation of non-complying structures should cease forthwith.

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