A PROPOSED mosque for Elermore Vale was refused last night on the grounds it couldn’t handle the expected parking and traffic load, and its backers didn’t rule out seeking another Hunter site.
A five-member Joint Regional Planning Panel at Newcastle City Hall took 45 minutes to unanimously reject the plan and extinguish its chance of existing at the Croudace Road site.
The panel followed Newcastle City Council planners’ advice to refuse the $6.8million plan after studies found it provided for 162 parking spaces, but needed 267 for Friday prayers.
The Newcastle Muslim Association proposed the mosque, and cannot submit a new application for the site because the council’s new local environment plan prevents places of worship there.
Spokeswoman Diana Rah said she was disappointed by the decision, but accepted it.
Asked if there would be another application for a mosque elsewhere, she said the association ‘‘hadn’t had a chance to discuss it’’.
‘‘I can’t say, not at this stage,’’ she said.
Panel chairman Garry Fielding said independent reports on traffic and parking limitations at the site had been ‘‘critical’’ to the decision to refuse the mosque.
‘‘The mosque in the form proposed is not acceptable,’’ he said.
‘‘My view is that ... the proposal in its present form would unreasonably detract from the amenity of the neighbourhood.’’
Before the ruling, speakers raised the possibility of mini-buses bringing worshippers to the mosque as a way around congestion.
Advocate Bill Yassine suggested maintaining the existing mosque at Wallsend as back-up for worshippers at peak times, and said the clergy could ‘‘shut the gate’’ on crowds.
The comment drew yells from some of the gallery of about 250.
Mr Fielding said modifications to the mosque’s conditions were ‘‘not appropriate’’ at that stage, and there was a process to follow.
The panel had heard from more than 100 speakers on a ‘‘very difficult and demanding’’ application, Mr Fielding said, and a mosque elsewhere in Newcastle would be a ‘‘worthwhile addition’’.
Steve Beveridge, a spokesman for the EV CARES group that opposed the mosque, said the attempts to alter the plan were ‘‘ad hoc’’ and far too late.
‘‘[The mosque’s refusal] is a logical consequence given the information made available,’’ Mr Beveridge said.
‘‘It’s unfortunate that the media’s portrayed us as a bunch of rednecks when we’ve only ever focused on the planning issues.’’
A woman who took her place in the gallery told reporters before the meeting she hoped they would ‘‘make sure those hanky heads don’t get that temple’’.