Cult drops Hills worship hall plans

A religious sect described by former prime minister Kevin Rudd as an extremist cult has walked away from plans to build an 800-seat hall in the Perth Hills.

Mundaring Gospel Trust, acting for the conservative Christian group known as Exclusive Brethren or Plymouth Brethren Christian Church, has withdrawn its plans for a meeting hall in Parkerville because of changes to the Shire of Mundaring's planning scheme.

It is unclear whether the trust will look at an alternative site, with a spokesman saying it was "considering its options".

"The trust withdrew (its plans) because a scheme amendment meant the proposed block may no longer have complied (with the shire's planning scheme)," he said. "While an appeal was an option, the trust respected the concern of the council and the community about a place of worship in the location."

The Brethren, which rejects the cult tag, discourages eating and drinking with non-believers, watching TV and attending mainstream universities. In 2007 Mr Rudd, then opposition leader, said the Brethren split families and denied children a modern education after prime minister John Howard met members.

The trust's decision to walk away brings down the curtain on a 13-month dispute that began when the shire rejected the hall proposal in April last year, arguing it would breach its proposed new planning scheme, was inconsistent with its existing scheme and would "have a detrimental visual impact".

The trust appealed to the State Administrative Tribunal and wrote to Acting Planning Minister Bill Marmion.

Mr Marmion initially moved to relax the council's restrictions on allowing places of worship in residential areas but subsequently endorsed a scheme that was not compatible.

Once it was determined the trust's proposal would not be allowed under the shire's scheme the SAT provisionally dismissed the application and the trust withdrew its application.

The West Australian

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