A small religious sect that adheres strictly to the Bible may have to appeal to the state’s planning tribunal to build a church for its members in Eltham.
The Exclusive Brethren, an evangelical Christian church, faces residents’ opposition.
Its application has received more than 60 objections ranging from fears about increased traffic noise to the potential impact of a new building on the environment and noise from early-morning services on Sundays.
Following an emotional council meeting last week, the council has deferred a decision until church representatives, objectors and the council have held a private meeting to discuss the group’s application. Mayor Greg Johnson said the council was trying to encourage “a shared community understanding” of the Brethren community.
The Exclusive Brethren was founded in Ireland in the early 19th century and is thought to have 70,000 members worldwide.
Members follow a rigid code of behaviour, have limited contact with outsiders, avoid public attention and do not own TVs or radios.
Church member Adrian Mead told The Age his group simply wanted to practise its faith. “We’ve nothing to hide, we’re not secretive – we just don’t like being in the public eye,” he said.