By Bev Jordan
A decision to allow a 250-person place of worship proposed by The Hills District Muslim Society (‘Hills AWQAF Pty Ltd’) at Glenhaven has sent shockwaves through the community after it was announced last week following a four-year campaign by residents against it.
The plans for the Masjid (Mosque) on a 2.5 ha site at 1 Larapinta Place, Glenhaven were first submitted to Hills Shire Council in April 2018 and were rejected on several grounds.
The proposed $7.5million project included a 2-storey building including the main Prayer hall to accommodate 250 people, a sister prayer hall, four classrooms and basement parking for 116 cars.
The Sydney Central Planning Panel rejected the plans on 28th August 2019 following a public meeting attended by about 500 people.
The proposal was then taken to the Land and Environment Court in September 2021 on appeal. Court Commissioner Joanne Gray handed down her decision last week (March 28th) upholding the appeal by The Hills District Muslim Society after minor changes were made to the car parking arrangements and noise controls.
She said the development was deemed “acceptable having regard to the absences of adverse impacts, the objectives of the zone and the character of the area.”
Hills Shire Mayor Dr Peter Gangemi described the decision as “incredibly disappointing”. He said Council was not against places of public worship, but it was the wrong location in this application.
“Given the intensity and scale, Council wanted to see this type of development located in our urbanised areas – where there is adequate pedestrian access, public transport, roads and a sewer network.
“We have attempted to meet with the applicant on a number of occasions to discuss alternative sites, however, they’ve remained unchanged in their decision and adamant on this site,” he said.
He also hit out at the process. “The State Government talks about putting locals first and including them in the decision-making process, but this outcome just proves how out of touch they are with local community issues.
“This proposal fails to adequately deal with the RU6 Transition Zone objectives, as well as the noise, traffic and parking this type of development will generate.
It also has little regard for the rural landscape and will unacceptably impact on the natural environment, as well as the neighbouring properties located within the quiet cul-de-sac.
“It’s unsatisfactory that our rural land is being exploited in this way because it’s a cheaper alternative to building on urban zoned land – the more appropriate location for a development of this size. ”
Hills Shire Councillor Mitchell Blue, former Chair of Friends of Glenhaven, said residents were opposed to the proposal because the site was not conducive to a place of public worship, due to the scale and intensity it would bring.
“This decision by the Court is in stark contrast to the thousand plus submissions from the Glenhaven community and that is highly disappointing,” he said.
As part of the Court’s decision, approval was also granted for the demolition of the existing structures and works associated with constructing a place of public worship, including the basement car parking for 99 cars and landscaping.
The Hills to Hawkesbury Community News contacted HDMS for a comment but had not heard back before going to press.
A comment on the group’s website said: “The Hills District Muslim Society has been serving the local community since 2006 and working tirelessly towards establishing our local Masjid (mosque) that we can all call home. Alhamdulilah (Praise God) we are almost there and we thank Allah for everything. “
The Mosque will be used daily for morning and evening prayer services from 5.30am to 6.30am and 7pm and to 8.30pm as well as during the day (9am to 6pm) for administration and classes.
There will also be a midday prayer service on Fridays between noon and 2pm.