UPDATE 12.44pm: City of Greater Bendigo chief executive officer Craig Niemann said the council will not meet with objectors again before Friday’s deadline for further action.
“The decision as far as we’re concerned is made, the permit is issued, it’s up to the objectors if they want to take another step,” he said.
“We’ll address that as and if it happens.”
UPDATE 12.38pm: City of Greater Bendigo planning and development director Prue Mansfield said she now expects the mosque to be built within 2 years.
Ms Mansfield said she was not surprised the objectors’ appeal had been rejected.
“This is a very common misunderstanding of people around a lot of issues, it’s not just enough to say you have a view there will be traffic impact or other impacts, you actually have to produce the evidence,” she said.
“It’s just the same for social impacts, you can’t just say ‘we worry that there will be a social impact’, you actually have to produce objective evidence.”
UPDATE 12.25pm: The City of Greater Bendigo will address media at 12.30pm.
WATCH IT AS IT HAPPENED HERE:
UPDATE, 10am Wednesday: Victoria's highest court has thrown out a protracted legal bid by a group of Bendigo residents to stop a mosque being built there.
Led by local woman Julie Hoskin, the group has been crowd-funding its battle against the mosque, which the City of Bendigo approved in June last year and which VCAT approved in August.
Ms Hoskin, who refused to comment to the media after the judgement was handed down, tumbled down the steps outside the court after the verdict, and had to be given first aid treatment for a suspected broken ankle. She was helped into a taxi by members of the media, after refusing an ambulance.
On Wednesday morning, the Court of Appeal rejected the residents' claims that the mosque would bring negative social effects to Bendigo. The judges said the Charter of Human Rights protected freedom of religion, and said people practicing their religion could not be considered to be an adverse "social effect".
The Court held that the objectors' concerns were "overstated and unfounded".
"In the absence of any objective, concrete evidence substantiating the adverse social effects the objectors submitted the mosque could have, the Tribunal [VCAT] acted according to law in giving the objectors' concerns little weight."
Lawyers for the Australian Islamic Mission welcomed the decision.
In a statement, they said: "The wider Bendigo community has shown strength and resilience and we are so appreciative of the heart-warming support we received.
"We would especially like to thank the Bendigo Council for holding onto the great Australian values of equality, democracy and a fair go for all."
Inside court, they said they would seek costs against the Bendigo residents fighting the mosque.
Residents have not ruled out further legal action, but will have until Friday afternoon to make their case about why they should not pay legal costs.
In November, Chief Justice Marilyn Warren told the court the appeal would not proceed until lawyers for the Australian Islamic Mission, council and the government had seen bank documents showing the group could afford to pay costs in the event they lost the case.
Chris Townshend, representing the Australian Islamic Mission, told the court last month that VCAT had compiled a summary of the objections to the mosque, and "the quite specific flavour and nature" of those objections showed they were based on "the religious practices of other Victorians", rather than planning issues.
"[They] all go to the choice of practice of religion at a very general level," Mr Townshend said.
Examples of objections included "Islam's integration with western culture", the prospect of "more people dressed in Islamic dress" and the "Islamification of Bendigo".
Mr Townshend said given the Victorian Charter of Human Rights protected the right to freedom of religion, the tribunal could have rejected these objections based on religion out of hand, but had instead given the objectors the courtesy of hearing their complaints.
The objections, he said, amounted to "an attack on freedom of religion".
Peter King, representing the objectors, told the court on Friday that 435 objections had been lodged against the mosque.
He said authorities had failed to take into account the social and economic impacts building a mosque in Bendigo might cause.
Mr King said the City of Bendigo and VCAT had rejected those objections because opponents had not shown building the mosque would cause certain negative effects.
But, he argued, both the council and VCAT should have taken into account the possibility that building the mosque could have adverse social and economic effects on Bendigo.
He did not say what those social or economic effects might be.
In August, VCAT found that the Australian Islamic Mission's proposal to build a mosque, sports hall and other facilities on Rowena Street in Bendigo East did not present significant social or other impacts to the community and would not unreasonably affect nearby homes.
The objectors' group had argued the mosque project, which was granted a planning permit in June, would create noise pollution and traffic congestion.
EARLIER: BENDIGO should find out on Wednesday whether the city’s first mosque can go ahead, with the Victorian Court of Appeal expected to hand down its judgement on the project.
The court adjourned its decision until 9.30am in the Melbourne Supreme Court, when objectors will find out the outcome of their appeal.
Objectors launched the latest appeal after they were unsuccessful in swaying the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal in August.
Another defeat in the Court of Appeal could be the final avenue for opponents to the mosque – with court costs believed to already be in excess of $200,000 – bringing to an end a saga that has stretched since June 2014, when the City of Greater Bendigo first approved the project.
The Court of Appeal dismissed an injunction on physical works on the Rowena Street site in East Bendigo during a hearing in September.
During the hearing, Chief Justice Marilyn Warren described the appeal documents as “embarrassing” in their form, which the solicitor acting for the objectors also described as an “alphabet soup”.
In November, mosque opponents argued in the court the council had not considered possible “negative impacts” of the mosque in Bendigo.
Among the objections were fears for the “Islamisation of Bendigo” and “more people dressed in Islamic dress”, but no specific social or economic effects were provided during the hearing.
In response, the lawyer acting for the Australian Islamic Mission described opposition to the Bendigo mosque as “an attack on freedom of religion”.
He said the objectors’ case was based on the “religious practices of other Victorians”, rather than planning issues.
Concerns about court costs were allayed after the November hearing, after the Australian Islamic Mission requested evidence the objectors could afford an unsuccessful appeal.
Both the spokesman for Bendigo’s Muslim community, Heri Febriyanto, and objector Julie Hoskin, were unavailable for comment on Monday.