FULL COVERAGE: Bendigo mosque: Emotion fuels debate
A MAN with traffic and safety concerns regarding the region's first mosque says he has been labelled a racist because of his opposition.
Peter Vanderfeen was one of hundreds of objectors to attend this week's City of Greater Bendigo meeting, where councillors approved the mosque in a seven-two vote.
Mr Vanderfeen, who lives next door to the site, welcomes the place of worship on social grounds - but says it will create increased traffic because of the entry point on Rowena Road.
However his concerns have been "drowned out" by vocal anti-Islam protesters.
"I've found it hard to voice concerns about planning because other people have been making vocal comments on a religious context," he said.
"I would like to have an intelligent debate with some people. I wouldn't like to be seen as a racist because I was sitting next to (protesters) at the meeting."
More than 200 objections were received for the mosque and 40 in support.
A community consultation meeting was not held, with the City of Greater Bendigo saying there were too many submissions to "have a reasonable debate".
Community consultation was also bypassed for another agenda item this month due to an excess of submissions.
Councillors who voted to support the mosque said they had made their decision on planning grounds.
"Any niggling issues (including traffic) can be ironed out and discussed now its been approved," Cr Peter Cox said.