Penrith Councillors have thrown their support behind a development application to build a prayer hall in Kemps Creek in a display of solidarity with Penrith’s minority groups.
Council received the application earlier this year for the prayer hall, to be located on a property along Mamre Road, Kemps Creek.
The majority of Councillors were greatly supportive of the proposal, saying that it would meet the needs of the community and that it is a complying development.
“Penrith is a very welcoming community and our role as council is not to tell people how they should practice their religion,” said Cr Karen McKeown.
Cr John Thain agreed: “This is a complying development and we should remember what Rev Neil Checkley said in his prayer this evening about being a welcoming city.”
But Cr Marcus Cornish was opposed to the prayer hall, which will be used to observe Islamic religous events such as Muharram and Ramadan, saying it would set a precedent that could eventually change the demographic of Penrith.
“I grew up in Auburn and it used to be just like Penrith… now it is in the news for all the wrong reasons,” he said.
“I stand by my election promise to oppose any development application for a mosque to be built in Penrith.”
Cr Michelle Tormey said that the prayer hall would be a great addition to the community.
“Settlement Services International (SSI) who are contracted by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to provide immediate settlement support to Humanitarian entrants currently refer newly arrived Humanitarian entrants to both Penrith and Blue Mountains LGA’s as they are part of the designated settlement areas,” she said.
“Recently Council’s Multicultural Liaison Officer was asked to present information to a group of Syrian, Iraqi and Iranian humanitarian entrants on the benefits of settling further west as suburbs closer to Sydney like Fairfield, Auburn and Blacktown do not have affordable housing available.
“The largest language group settling in Penrith over the past 8 years is Arabic speaking people from Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Afghanistan.”
Cr Kevin Crameri did not support the application on the grounds that it could impact a local creek and land zoned E2 Environment.
The prayer hall was passed by Councillors with an applause coming from the public gallery.