VCAT overturns mosque approval

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Trial (VCAT) has overturned a permit the City of Melbourne granted for a mosque on the corner of Victoria and Exhibition streets.

The two-storey building has been used as an office but also has prayer rooms and hosts religious classes operated by Madinah Next.

The owners' corporation (OC) of a neighbouring building complained about overcrowding it claimed resulted from its current use and successfully appealed the permit for larger gatherings.  The VCAT decision ruled in favour of the OC, citing Friday congregational prayers as the main concern.

“The main reason I have refused the application is because of the uncertainty and unresolved impacts caused by the large number of worshippers attending the Friday congregational prayers,” said VCAT senior member John Bennett. 

“I am not persuaded that the site is sufficiently large to accommodate up to 150 persons at one time and how that number of people will be managed on-site.”

The site has existing-use rights as an office and can therefore continue to operate as an office. However, the use of the site for prayer rooms may be under question.

A council spokesperson said the city supported the use and building works with conditions.

“Our view was that using the site as a place of worship was in keeping with the mixed-use character of the area and any amenity or parking impacts on the adjoining properties could be managed with permit conditions,” a council spokesperson said.

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