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Village shock at solar farm site

Uriarra Village residents have expressed shock that a 10-megawatt solar farm is planned for near the village, saying they may lose the rural views that attracted them to the settlement.

About 50 residents attended a community meeting in the village on Sunday, angry about the placement of the solar park - proposed to contain 26,100 photo voltaic panels - and the lack of warning about the major project.

Construction on registered rural block number 76 is planned to start in less than 12 months, if a development application expected to be filed with the ACT government in the next fortnight is approved.

Judy Middlebrook, who built a new house in Uriarra Village in 2009, is on the village’s executive committee. She said there had been hundreds of emails between the community since last week’s announcement of the site, with the solar farm defying residents’ expectations for the area.

”We had a right to expect this would continue as a rural place, as it has for 150 years,” she said.

”If I knew this was going to be an industrial site here, I wouldn’t have come out.”

Other residents queried the farm’s proximity to the village - which lost nearly three-quarters of its homes in the 2003 bushfires - when there were thousands of apparently suitable hectares in the area.

The meeting comes after the managing director of Elementus Energy, whose subsidiary OneSun plans to build the solar farm, told The Canberra Times the closest panels to Brindabella Road could be 20 metres from the leased property’s edge.

”The first panels will be at least 20 metres inside the property,” Ashleigh Antflick said. ”There will be a visual impact, a real impact and a perceived impact, and we’ll work with the [community] as efficiently as we can, and ensure they have the real facts.”

Mr Antflick said the farming land, which they had obtained a 20-year sublease for, was the territory’s most suitable land for a solar farm.

”The reason that site was selected was on a multi-criteria analysis: one was zoning, one was topography - you don’t want the Brindabella Ranges throwing a shadow across your farm - one was access to the electricity network,” he said.

Residents at the meeting said they had no objection to a solar farm elsewhere.

Helen Ollerenshaw has lived in the village, planned to contain 100 homes when complete, for two years and said the proximity was her biggest concern. ”The back of my home would be 40 metres away. This [planning] was going on while we were buying, while we were building, while we were investing,” she said.

Jessie Agnew, another executive committee member and one of those closest to the proposed farm, said her children would lose out.

”We brought our kids out here to have that outdoors, country, rural lifestyle - our kids are going to lose that visual aspect.”

Mr Antflick will meet with the ACT strata body corporate manager on Monday to map out further engagement plans. ”Over a period of time, we’ll go into more in-depth engagement with the community,” he said.

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