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Indian sect wins right to build spiritual centre in Australia


Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB)


Melbourne:  An India-based sect has won the right to build a spiritual and meditation centre in Swan Valley in Western Australia, ending a five-year legal battle with the local council that banned the construction of places of worship in the rural area.

The State Administration Tribunal passed the order last week allowing the Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB) Australia to construct a spiritual and meditation centre, The West Australian reported on Thursday.

RSSB's lawyer Tim Houweling said his clients were overwhelmed and excited that their fight to build the centre has come to an end.

There seems to be an unwarranted fear in our community of the establishment of places of worship," he said, adding, "I can assure surrounding residents that theSB will be great neighbours." It is not clear to me why places of worship are being singled out in planning, and treated differently from other uses that have greater impact,'' he said.

Houweling clarified that the tribunal after hearing the evidence has made clear that there is no impact on horticulture or agriculture activity in the Swan Valley Rural zone.

Earlier, the City of Swan voted to change its planning scheme to not allow any more places worships including churches, mosques, temples to be built in the rural, winery region, in order to preserve the agricultural character of the area.

However, theSB Australia argued it has met all planning requirements and took its fight to the court.

The Tribunal said the centre would be low impact and would not cause any adverse impacts to traditional agricultural activities in the area.

Council chief executive Mike Foley said the city would not appeal against the decision of the Tribunal.

"The decision [to refuse the application] was formed on the basis that the application was not for a traditional activity and was not consistent with the rural character of the locality," he said.

"The city accepts the Tribunal's decision and will continue to work with theSB to ensure the final development is in keeping with the character of the Swan Valley," he said.

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