City turns other cheek to church activities

Meals set to continue
Meals set to continue

The battle, which started in September, came after the church received a letter from the City’s senior planning officer David Spencer on September 18, ordering it to stop activities that contravened planning regulations following complaints from Brighton Road residents.

Senior pastor Andre van Oudtshoorn said he was very grateful for the outcome of mediation though admitted it was unfortunate lawyers had to get involved.

‘We are very grateful that they were prepared to sit down and talk with us, and agree that what we were doing was part of being a church,’ he said.

‘We feel like it really is a case of common sense prevailing and I think everybody is just relieved because you are never sure which way these things are going to go, and we very glad we can continue on.’

City of Stirling health and compliance manager Peter Morrison said City officers had been monitoring attendance at the Sunday evening meals and religious services over a number of months.

‘Through that monitoring, it was determined that the backpackers/homeless persons attending the meals all stayed for the short religious service, and after-service tea, coffee and dessert,’ he said. ‘As such, they are considered to be part of the congregation of the church.

‘Provision of meals to the church congregation falls under the existing approval for religious activities and does not require an additional approval.’

Mr Morrison said the City had a statutory obligation to administer its planning laws and had followed due process.

‘Further, the City is also required as part of our customer charter to respond to complaints from our residents,’ he said.

‘We have also done this and believe the management plan to be a reasonable and fair outcome for all parties.’

The City liaised with the Scarborough Baptist Church through the SAT process in developing a management plan for the activities at the site.