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Wind Turbine

The proposed wind turbine in Surf Beach is causing a lot of concern for members of the Bass Coast community. Council has received feedback regarding the matter, mostly from residents who do not support the structure being erected in a residential area. We have heard you and we share the community’s concerns.

We are taking the matter very seriously and have investigated every avenue open to us to address the issue.

Unfortunately, for a number of reasons as summarised below, Council has no power available to it to address the proposed issues associated with the installation of the structure.

The only authority that can intervene to support and address the community’s concerns is the State Government through an amendment to the Victorian Planning Provisions.

Council has urgently written to the Minister for Local Government and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning requesting assistance and intervention.

To date, the State Government has declined to amend the Planning Provisions which would provide the mechanism for Council to manage the approval and enforcement process.

Planning controls – why is a planning permit not required?

The proposed wind turbine does not trigger the need for a planning permit as stipulated within the Planning and Environment Act 1987 or the Bass Coast Planning Scheme. There have been suggestions that the proposed wind turbine could be classified as a ‘Wind Energy Facility’. This classification would require a certain amount of power to be generated by the proposed turbine. The proposed wind turbine does not produce enough energy to meet this classification.

The proposed height of the structure is to be under 11 metres, thereby not triggering a permit under the General Residential Zone. As the turbine is domestic in nature and considered as ancillary to the existing dwelling, no planning permission is required.

Planning advocacy – what has Council done to advocate to the State Government?

Council has written to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning seeking intervention from the State Government on this matter. A response from the Department has stated that “it is not proposed to amend the Victoria Planning Provision to require planning permission for the construction of a wind turbine for domestic purposes.”

Council has also raised this with the Minister for Local Government. Council forwarded all documentation on this matter to the Minister, at his request, to investigate this matter further and to intervene. We are awaiting a response.

Council has, and will, continue to advocate to the State Government to intervene on this matter from a planning perspective. We reiterate that Council does not have the power to intervene and are reliant upon State Government intervention.

Building controls – why is a building permit not required?

A building permit is not required for the purposes of a wind turbine. This advice has been confirmed by the Victorian Building Authority on several occasions.

Council is aware that there has been differing opinions to this classification within the community. Contrary to what has been suggested, the advice from the Victorian Building Authority has remained firm and has been independently verified with legal entities.

Environmental concerns – why are environmental considerations not being made?

The location for the proposed wind turbine is outside of the RAMSAR wetland boundary and so the flight path of migratory birds cannot be considered.

The Environmental Protection Agency may be able to intervene in the event that the noise emitted from the turbine exceeds allowable limits. However, this can only be measured once the turbine is operational, and not before.

Health concerns – does the proposed turbine contravene the Health and Wellbeing Act?

The Health and Wellbeing Act does not prohibit the installation of the turbine.

Enforcement options – why has Council not issued infringements regarding the proposed turbine?

Any enforcement option available to Council can only be pursued once the wind turbine is operational. In the event the proposed turbine is constructed and is found to breach any stipulations – height, noise, commercial in nature, used for advertising purpose, etc. – Council will pursue any and all enforcement options available to ensure any breach is fully rectified.

Local Law – why is the wind turbine not enforceable by Council’s local law?

Council has considered its Local Law No. 1 – Neighbourhood Amenity 2012 and it has been deemed that a domestic wind turbine does not meet the grounds for ‘Unsightly Land’ or ‘Dangerous Land’ as defined within Part 5 of the Local Law.

Emergency powers – why has Council’s Municipal Building Surveyor not utilised available emergency powers?

A number of residents have expressed their concerns over the safety of the construction of the wind turbine and requested that Council’s Municipal Building Surveyor enact their statutory emergency powers under the Building Act 1993.

At this stage without any construction having taken place, there is not a situation that warrants the enactment of emergency action to be taken by Council under the Act.

If circumstances were to arise whereby this action may be warranted, then this will be promptly enacted at that time. Currently, there is no situation that would warrant emergency action in this instance to be taken by Council that fits the criteria under the Act.

Plans and certification – has Council approved the design or construction?

As noted above, there is no mechanism from a planning or building perspective that is before Council for a decision or to intervene on this matter.

Council has contacted the landowner and requested documentation that outlines the dimensions, designs, specifications and tolerances of the wind turbine. This documentation (whilst commercial in confidence) has been provided by the landowner in good faith.

The documentation is presently being independently peer reviewed and assessed against all regulations and requirements as provided above.

Next steps – what are the next steps for Council?

Council has explored all options including those raised by the community relating to the proposed wind turbine. Council is presently unable to intervene on this matter under any of its statutory abilities. It has been confirmed that there are no existing avenues from a planning, building or environmental perspective that permit Council to prevent the construction of the proposed wind turbine.

If the proposed wind turbine is constructed, and the wind turbine is found to breach any regulation, then full enforcement options available to Council and other agencies will be undertaken.

Conclusion

Council acknowledges that infrastructure of this height is not the desired aesthetic that is intended for our coastal townships. We share the frustration.

As highlighted above, there is no avenue presently available to Council to intervene in this matter.

We are committed to supporting the community and addressing their concerns; however, we need more support. For now, we will continue to seek intervention from the State Government.

Until Council is provided with further advice from the State Government, another agency, or information contrary to all advice received to date, we are unable to action this matter further.