Armidale Regional Councillor Margaret O'Connor has expressed her disappointment at the Joint Regional Planning Panel's (JRPP) approval 29.9 Megawatt Stringybark Solar Farm at Castledoyle, while Cr Simon Murray said he voted against the DA.
"I was unaware that this very controversial DA had been approved by ARC's planning department without any reference to Council's governing body," she said.
"I'm pretty stunned, I can tell you, that with over 140 objections from residents and many claims of there being no consultation with affected residents, the executive arm of ARC decided to approve the development application without any reference to the elected council.
"It was disclosed last night that the developer applicant, Infigen Pacific has made a financial contribution of $321,000 to Council. This is another matter that is quite disturbing to me. Who, on Council, decided that $321K was a reasonable contribution for the upset and potential economic and social pain that this particular development will bring."
The State Government five member panel included Garry West (chair), Pamela Westing, Stephen Gow and council's representatives Cr Di Gray and Cr Simon Murray. It decides the fate of those developments worth between $10 million and $30 million.
Cr Murray said while he voted against the farm he simply did not have the numbers.
"Just to clarify however, if our council had discussed that solar farm DA then, because we've already discussed the matter in council, Cr Gray and myself would have had to abstain, and JRPP would have had to bring in two councillors from another council to avoid a conflict of interest," he said.
"There was an accusation that council executive had made decisions on this. The chair quite rightly said it was not the case. He said, 'We are the decision body not the council.', he told her pretty clearly that council does not make the decisions.
"Every time you put a DA in there is a contribution you pay towards it. It's on per cent of the proposed cost of the development and it's fixed by the State Government, that's what the $321,000 is all about and the relevant councillor who made that comment, with their experience, should know better.
Stringybark is located 14 kilometres east of Armidale with above ground panels mounted on a tracking system, and an off-site substation including transformer, switchgear and connected into 66kV power line that lies adjacent to the substation.
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