Karleila Thomsen

Council quits fight over Valdora solar farm land rezoning

SUNSHINE Coast Council has conceded an appeal against its 2013 approval of a solar farm on former cane land at Valdora.

The council had cited the approval in justifying the $4.2m it paid to take over the land for which the original developer had paid only $770,000.

The court outcome provides only a pyrrhic victory for the appellant who has now applied to the Planning and Environment Court to require the council to pay legal costs.

Resident and businessman Noel Covey, who lodged an appeal against council's original approval of a commercial solar farm on the site, would not comment while the matter was still subject to a costs hearing.

Planning law requires that the council inform all objectors to a Material Change of Use development application of its final decision, to afford them the right of appeal.

In the case of its original solar farm approval, the council claimed a letter meant to go to Mr Covey instead was sent to a representative of the developer who failed to either return it or to pass it on to Mr Covey.

Mr Covey applied to the Planning and Environment Court and was granted the right to appeal.

The council is free to pursue a solar farm on the site because it has subsequently rezoned the land specifically to accommodate the facility.

The rezoning was pushed through as part of the Sunshine Coast Planning Scheme 2014 after that document had been closed to public comment and before the scheme's gazettal early last year. In doing so, the council avoided having to face any objection to the change.