Islamic worship green light

Plans for the Islamic prayer hall on the eastern side of Harkness Road. (Supplied)

Benjamin Millar

An Islamic prayer hall has been given the green light to be built in Harkness despite attracting more than 160 objections.

The Melbourne Islamic Centre first applied to build the place of worship on a 10.45 hectare parcel of land on the eastern side of Harkness Road almost a decade ago, but a permit for an earlier proposal lapsed after being approved by the Victoria Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

A new application was lodged with Melton council in 2019, with councillors voting in December that year to request the planning minister “call in” and decide upon the application.

But Planning Minister Richard Wynee wrote back to the council in August advising that he has declined the request as he considers that the application would be more appropriately dealt with by the council.

Melton councilors last week voted to approve the project subject to a number of conditions, including a requirement for the applicant to seal about 800 metres of the unsealed stretch of Harkness Road leading to the site.

The approval allows for up to 60 people to pray at the site at any one time, up to four times per day.

Objectors had raised concerns about the suitability of the land for a place of worship, excessive and unacceptable hours of operation, traffic and other amenity impacts.

However council planning services manager Robert Baggio told last week’s council meeting that the proposal is considered appropriate for the site.

“Issues relating to soil stability and the like have been adequately addressed [and] the loss of amenity to surrounding residents’ can be mitigated by appropriate conditions on the planning permit, particularly a requirement for the section of Harkness Road which is currently unconstructed to be constructed to the site,” he said.

“So on that basis, it’s recommended that the application be supported, subject to the 47 conditions.”

Cr Bob Turner asked for an estimate of the cost of the road construction, with the meeting told the “ballpark figure” is about $100,000 per 100 metres, equating to about $800,000 to construct that section of road.

Cr Steve Abboushi said he didn’t think a community group that is investing in the community should have to pay $800,000 “for what is effectively a council asset.”

The recommendation for approval was passed by a majority of councillors, with only Cr Sophie Ramsay voting against it due to parking and noise concerns.