VCAT rejects Gisborne South Buddhist temple bid

Plans for a Buddhist temple at Gisborne South have been scrapped following the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal’s ruling to refuse the application last week.
The Lao Buddhist Society of Victoria proposal sought to develop the Rural Living Zone site at 125 McGeorge Road to allow for worship, gatherings and meetings.
While the planning officer recommended approval, councillors refused the application in February largely based on loss of amenity, traffic concerns and environmental impacts. The application received 52 objections and four letters of support.
Senior tribunal member J A Bennett upheld the council’s decision with concerns the proposal was “inconsistent with the zone purposes”.
“It will introduce an intensity of activity which is at odds with the existing rural residential lifestyle character of the locality and the enjoyment of that setting by existing residents,” Bennett said.
“We are concerned that approving an assembly hall and temple will undermine that character when there is no imperative for them to be located in the Rural Living Zone.”
The proposal meant the site would host a monthly Alms Giving Ceremony with up to 120 participants and an annual Lao New Year celebrations for up to 200 patrons. Daily food offerings and weekly meditation sessions would also take place for up to 15 participants.
Plans included a new access crossing from Watson Road and 60 formalised parking spaces and overflow parking for an additional 11 vehicles.
While the Tribunal agreed with concerns about the development in Rural Living Zone, the senior member stated that some of the arguments against the proposal were unconvincing including traffic, waste disposal, visual and noise concerns.
The senior member stated, “the benefit (of having such a temple in area) needs to be weighed up against protecting and supporting the residential amenity and character in this part of the municipality”.

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