Council received a planning application for a solar farm in Clarke Road, Springvale South in 2018. After extensive consideration of the proposal, Council determined to support the solar farm at the Council meeting on 22 March 2021. This support was subject to a number of conditions, including the solar farm providing an area of open space for the public along the boundaries of the site, in accordance with the Chain of Parks policy contained within the Greater Dandenong Planning Scheme. The applicant appealed the matter to VCAT, primarily to contest three elements being:
- The requirement to provide publicly available open space in accordance with the Chain of Parks policy
- The extent of landscaping required and
- The requirement for an additional environmental audit.
A VCAT hearing was held on 13 and 14 May 2021, where Council argued for the retention of the above requirements. VCAT has now considered all of the arguments put forward, and has determined not to require the provision of publicly available open space, stating that while the Chain of Parks policy does provide some support for this, it is aspirational and outdated, that the land is not in public ownership, and that there is no nexus between the development of a solar farm and the need for this open space.
VCAT has also slightly amended the extent of landscaping required, however the landscaping still required will provide adequate screening of the facility. With regard to the requirement for an additional environmental audit, VCAT did not support this, stating that the existing environmental controls would provide adequate protection. All other Council requirements have remained generally as sought.
Council is very disappointed with this outcome, and in particular the loss of the area of open space for the community, as the inclusion of this was a key reason for Council supporting the proposed solar farm.