18th August, 2020, Sentinel-Times, Sentinel-Times
Aggrieved neighbours of the Bald Hills Wind Farm have welcomed the Supreme Court decision in their favour, and that of the council, today. Photo courtesy of The Australian.
THE Supreme Court of Victoria has handed down its decision today, Tuesday, August 18, in the cases of the Bald Hills Wind Farm Pty Ltd versus South Gippsland Shire Council, and the BHWF v five local landowners and found entirely in the council’s favour, and that of the landowners.
Justice Melinda Richards found that the operators of the Bald Hills Wind Farm had not established that the April 2019 resolution of council was affected by any jurisdictional error.
As a result, their decision, that there is an “intermittent nuisance of the kind alleged” by the nearby landowners and acknowledged by the council, stands.
Lawyer for the aggrieved landowners, Dominica Tannock of DST Legal in Abbottsford said today that the ruling by the Supreme Court was an emphatic vindication of the decision by the council and a substantial decision for the landowners and the operation of the facility.
Ms Tannock said the operators of the Wind Farm not only lost their challenge of the council’s decision but were also likely to be liable for the considerable legal costs associated with the proceedings.
Her Honour also handed down that she proposes to award costs against the plaintiff, that is Bald Hills Wind Farm Pty Ltd in both instances although the court will be prepared to hear any party which seeks a different order as to costs if they lodge an application by Friday, August 28.
In respect of South Gippsland Shire Council ratepayers, the legal costs that would have been paid by the council to its lawyers, Maddocks, are likely to be now be met by Bald Hills.
Ms Tannock said she believed the decision today would also have a bearing on the Supreme Court action next year, in which the owners of the neighbouring rural properties are claiming aggravated and exemplary damages against Bald Hills Wind Farm Pty Ltd over what they say is an illegal level of noise created by some of the 52 turbines.
In her general disposition of the case between BHWF Pty Ltd, the council and the landowners, Justice Richards said: “As none of the grounds of review have been made out, there is no basis to make the declaration sought by Bald Hills. There is therefore no need for me to consider whether declaratory relief should be refused on discretionary grounds, as was submitted for the complainants. The proceeding must be dismissed.”
A spokesperson for the landowners said today that it was an important decision for those affected by the wind farm noise, one that he believed left the operators very little scope for appeal.
More details to follow.