A Sydney council says race played no part in its decision to reject a proposal to build an Islamic school.
Bankstown Council reaffirmed last night its earlier decision to block a proposed 1200-student Islamic school in Bass Hill, in Sydney’s south-west, saying the Al Amanah College had failed to address traffic and environmental concerns.
The council first voted against the proposal in December. But in July the college took a revised development plan to the Land and Environment Court, which asked the council to comment on the amended proposal.
Councillors voted last night to reject the proposal in their submission to the court.
The issue of race was raised after Independent councillor Max Parker asked whether a study had been done on the impact on racial harmony in the area.
”There’s a fear of Muslims, as they are in the world today, moving into that area,” Cr Parker said.
A council spokeswoman denied yesterday race had anything to do with the decision, saying Bankstown prided itself on its racial diversity.
”We have about five Islamic schools in our area already. We also have Greek schools. We have Catholic schools. We have state schools,” she said.
”Bankstown is very proud of its diversity. It’s what makes Bankstown so special and so interesting.”
Community opposition to Islamic schools came to public attention in May, when Camden Council, in Sydney’s south-west, rejected a 1200-student development on planning grounds.
That decision attracted widespread condemnation because of the Camden community’s strident anti-Muslim campaign against the school. A campaign also accompanied Bankstown Council’s decision, with the Bass Hill Resident Action Group opposing the Islamic school.
But as with the council, they have also repeatedly denied race was an issue. The council spokeswoman said parking and overdevelopment of the site were the reasons for the initial rejection in December.
The amended plans voted on last night ”weren’t any better”, she said.
”In that area already there is a school, there is another housing development going through. The area borders the Hume Highway, which is a major highway,” she said.
”We’re not talking a little quiet suburban area. We’re talking an area that has a lot of residential housing, but already has a lot of busy roads on it.
‘So you put 1200 students, teachers, a 30-place child-care centre, next to an existing high school, and we are talking a genuine traffic issue.” After the council rejected the plan in December, any decision on the development was up to the court, the spokeswoman said.
”We weren’t voting on the development itself. We don’t have the development power.
”The development power is with the Land and Environment Court,” she said.
”What we were doing last night is determining what our feedback on the amended plans would be to the Land and Environment Court.”