Power battle

An illustration of the former Clarke Road landfill - and the site of a proposed solar farm.

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

Neighbours say they are betrayed by plans for a 68,000-panel solar farm on a former Green Wedge landfill in Clarke Road Springvale South.

They are backed by Defenders of the South East Green Wedge group that says the site should be recreational parkland as part of a Chain of Parks.

The proposed $38 million solar farm is said to be capable of powering 10,000 average homes, according to proponent Progress Solar.

The fate of its planning permit application has yet to be decided by Greater Dandenong Council.

Spring Road resident Anna was shocked by plans for mass solar panels “20 metres from our front door”.

She said a vast majority of neighbours opposed the project, which could plunge property values by “20 to 30 per cent”.

“For years we thought it was going to be parkland and then a mini-golf course.

“It was something that the whole community was going to use.”

A Progress Solar spokesperson said the application had received an “overwhelmingly positive” community response.

The project allegedly could save 42,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, as well as create 50 jobs during construction and seven ongoing jobs.

The facility includes a 27 megawatt DC solar plant, and a dedicated sub-station to feed power into the Victorian grid.

A provisional battery storage area, central inverters and access roads will also be built.

A solar farm was nominated as one of the preferred land uses for the site as part of the Greater Dandenong Planning Scheme, the Progress Solar spokesperson said.

Defenders of the South East Green Wedge assistant secretary Barry Ross said a solar farm was “in the mix” but there was a “strong case for a recreational use for the site”.

In the council’s Green Wedge Policy, its preferred uses included a solar farm, open space and recreation – and had to be compatible with nearby public open space and residential uses.

The plan ignored the site being part of a series of connected recreational parks, Mr Ross said.

“The proposed solar farm would cover the land which would preclude it from fulfilling its potential as part of the Chain of Parks,” Mr Ross said.

“For many years the public has had to put up with the odours, dust and activity from the times when this site was used for sand extraction, then waste disposal, then capping with metres of soil.

“All this in the expectation that the end result would be clean, green open space.”

The Chain of Parks vision had been enshrined in a Sandbelt Open Space Project plan developed by Melbourne Parks & Waterways in 1994.

The site neighbours two former landfills that have turned to parklands.

Mr Ross said the group supported renewable energy but this was the wrong place for it.

Greater Dandenong councillor Youhorn Chea said residents had raised concerns about glare from the solar panels.

“I won’t support it unless they move it about 500 metres from the boundary.

“I think we as the council need to think of the residents first.”


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