By Brendan Rees
Angry neighbours have vowed to fight plans for a Sikh place of worship in Devon Meadows which they say will “wreck” their rural lifestyle.
The planning application for 73 Browns Road was given the go ahead by Casey Council at their 3 December meeting, which proposes an existing shed – about 6.6m by 12m and a height of 2.8m – to be used as a prayer hall and another shed – about 4.8m by 6.5m – as a communal kitchen and accommodate up to 70 patrons.
However, residents have cited concerns of the application being inconsistent with green wedge rural residential use, loss of privacy, traffic congestion, lack of parking, noise, septic and effluent disposal, lack of reticulated water and more.
The council received 85 objections to the plans but residents say “no-one’s been out to see any of us about any of this,” and that it was “rubbish” council had “carefully considered” their concerns.
The site, which also has a three-bedroom dwelling, was previously being used as a place of worship without a permit until neighbours complained to council who then directed the owners to cease the use until approvals were granted.
Under the plans lodged by A S Dhillon in March 2019, a toilet block will be built and a concrete car park for 21 car spaces. It’s proposed the site will operate on Saturday between 6pm and 10pm, and Sunday between 10am and 4pm and include singing with musical instruments.
Neighbour Mark Mulready, who has run a hobby farm with his partner Marie McNeill for about six years, said their objection was not about religion but rather the plans being inappropriate for the rural area.
“It was unbelievable that they (council) could bypass all their bylaws just to get something like this through,” he said.
The couple say their home is “our castle,” and the proposed plan is not “what we moved here for.”
“We’re in the midst of what can we do now?” they said.
Mr Mulready said some residents including themselves had even “talked about” selling their home.
Resident Steve Menheere said the lifestyle sought by residents will be “detrimentally impacted” by the application.
Other neighbours such as Glenn Porter and his wife Hanne fear their privacy will be lost as the plans state rows of cypress trees are slated for removal.
The couple, who sold their Clyde home 10 years ago – after having “had enough” of the noise coming from a neighbouring primary school – to move to the quieter rural area now say: “Well guess what? We’re getting it back”
“We put ourselves in a lot of debt to buy these joints to get away from it all,” Mr Porter said.
Casey councillor Rosalie Crestani said council “must consider” residents’ objectives.
“This about protecting and conserving Casey’s green wedge land for its agricultural, its environmental and recreation opportunities,” she said.
Cr Tim Jackson said the place of worship was “important” for Casey’s Sikh community “who has done so much for our community.”
Council says under the permit the site is not to be hired for commercial uses and no sound is to be amplified outside the building.
The owners of the site, who are understood to be a part of the Sikh Sewaks Australia, declined to comment.