Sect lodges appeal over Nillumbik decision

The Diamond Valley Leader, Australia/December 28, 2011

A Christian sect will take its battle to build its seventh church in Nillumbik to the state's peak planning tribunal.

Exclusive Brethren member and spokesman Richard Kelsey confirmed the group had lodged an application with the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal after Nillumbik Council rejected its plans to build at Sunrise Drive in Greensborough last month.

A date had not been set for the hearing, Mr Kelsey said.

"Since council's own planning officer recommended that the permit be granted, it is appropriate to have the decision reviewed by an independent planning authority," he said.

Councillors blocked the sect's plans to convert a former milkbar, in response to concerns about the size of community opposition.

One hundred and fifty residents filed objections citing traffic, noise and neighbourhood character concerns, as well as the site's security cameras and cyclone fencing.

But Mr Kelsey said the church believed Sunrise Drive residents would be "better off" if the site was converted from a convenience shop that had been "accessed more frequently, for longer hours and by a greater number of people".

Sunrise Nillumbik spokesman Carlo Mosca said he was concerned that residents, including many who had left the area for the Christmas period, only had until December 28 to lodge objections.

Mr Mosca said the group planned to raise money to hire lawyers and an independent traffic engineer for the VCAT case.

The Exclusive Brethren has five other sites in Eltham, Research and Diamond Creek, none of which had received complaints from neighbours, council spokeswoman Joanne Hammond said.

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