Sect's 6am services not too early for councillors

Wyndham Weekly, Australia/February 1, 2012

A secretive religious sect has been given approval by Wyndham Council to worship in a hall in Werribee.

The Wyndham Gospel Trust, which is understood to be a branch of the controversial Exclusive Brethren, had a permit for a worship hall in Ballan Road approved at a council meeting on January 23.

In its application, the trust said it would use the hall for twice-weekly services for up to 50 people. Services would run for two hours from 6am on Sundays and from 6pm on Mondays, plus a Sunday afternoon service once a month.

The council received a 27-signature petition and 18 other objections from residents opposed to the trust's planning application, mainly citing concerns about noise, neighbourhood character, early morning services and parking and traffic issues.

The bid follows a similar application last November from the Brethren to build a new worship hall in Greensborough.

It was narrowly knocked back by Nillumbik Council after a forceful community campaign.

Cr Heather Marcus described Wyndham's Exclusive Brethren as a quiet denomination of "fabulous people".

"I don't know where people get all this negativity about them from. Many of the women were customers in my shop [in Watton Street] years ago. I watched them grow up, get married, and they were lovely, lovely people." she said.

"We all have our religions and I've learned to always judge people as I find them."

Speaking on behalf of the applicant, planning consultant Annemarie Spinks said the new worship hall would be its fifth in the Wyndham area. Others include sites in Mambourin Street and Pyke Street in Werribee and Manor Lakes Boulevard in Wyndham Vale. The trust had gone "above and beyond" to ensure the new hall would not disturb nearby residents, she said.

Ms Spinks said the trust would decommission its Mambourin Street hall, which has been in use for more than 40 years, and planned to build a larger hall in Wyndham.

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