Planning a Mosque?

by Esmerelda Weatherwax (Dec. 2007)

Regular readers will recall my interest in the plans to build a prominent mosque on land at the Abbeymills site in east London. However, while the plans for the largest mosque in Europe have been delayed, plans for other smaller mosques are still under consideration. Not all of those will be permitted, but some or even many will. This is rather an anorakish collation of Mosque news from the planning departments. Not what one of the tabloid papers would call a “right rivetin’ read”, but I was struck by the amount of activity in the field.
First, an extract from a letter to a local paper in the London Borough of Redbridge.
 
 I READ with interest and a sense of foreboding the article on the mosque in Oaklands Park Avenue, Ilford (Recorder, last week). This is happening all over the borough and although those residents and businesses that will be or are affected by these new mosques protest, they are never turned down.These places are invariably used for prayers and meetings without planning permission and only when local people complain to the council are they investigated and permission granted retrospectively. Then more building works are carried out on either the premises themselves to make them larger - again without planning approval or knowledge - and sometimes adjoining premises are bought and again building works carried out and approval granted after the works have either started or completed.
There are always promises to only have 100 worshippers and a "green travel plan" etc, etc. The reality, as all of us know who live near a mosque, is very far removed from that - but they say what the council wants to hear and the council does not/will not monitor these places when permission is granted to see if the conditions are in fact being adhered to.
What angers the law-abiding, council tax-paying resident and businessperson is that the civil laws are constantly being broken with these initial builds and change of usage.
Yet far from penalising the perpetrators, they are rewarded with permission to go ahead anyway. . . Do any of the non-Muslim councillors have a mosque in their back yard?
 
In South London something quite odd has happened to the premises of a former dance hall.
NEIGHBOURS have been left baffled after a building which was meant to be a doctors' surgery has became a mosque.
Residents in London Road, Norbury, had no problem with planning permission being granted for a new surgery.
But they have been left confused now the former dance studio has reopened. Instead of patients turning up, hundreds of worshippers are flocking there.
Access . . . is often blocked by cars belonging to visitors to the building, which is now called the Bismillah Cultural Centre. "It's just crazy. How can you put in an application for a doctors' surgery and run it as a place of religious worship? It's a strange state of affairs.”
The council's planning register records that permission was only given provided there were strict time limits on when the premises could be used "to protect the amenities of adjoining occupiers".
A spokeswoman for the council, however, confirmed the mosque was operating legally, but admitted it had never been a doctors' surgery.
She said: "This property was granted planning permission for use as a doctors' surgery in October, 2006, however it has never been used as such. Formerly a dance studio, it is now used as a cultural centre which incorporates some element of prayer time. This usage falls into the same class of use [D1] as a doctors' surgery. We are not aware of the centre being used as a full-time mosque, but, in any case, such usage would also fall into the same D1 class of use."
 
In another London Borough the building used as a mosque is under a warning. This is a very brief report of the history from the archive news of a local radio station. The fuller reports from the main local paper are not kept in the website archive for more than a month or two and do not appear in any Google cache. Luckily my source has kept the paper clippings. 
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Row over a Romford bungalow used as a mosque
A row's started in Havering about the way a bungalow's being used. At the moment the building in Lessington Avenue's used as a place of worship for muslims, that's despite the fact it's been registered with the council for years as a child's play group. Now some local residents are complaining, saying it causes too much noise and parking problems. There's been a protest outside the address and a petition. Some people are saying the objections are racist.
This is recent news from The Romford Recorder.
AN ILLEGAL mosque that runs from a Romford bungalow has been told to close following a surge of activity.
The property in Lessington Road, known as the Romford Mosque, was this week served a notice warning if people continue to pray in numbers, action will be taken.
In October, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, it is claimed up to 30 men were regularly there until the early hours.Brooklands Tory councillors Robert Benham and Fred Osborne teamed up with Romford MP Andrew Rosindell in condemning the mosque. Last year they handed in a 500-strong petition from neighbours who dubbed it noisy and disruptive. 
The paper edition continues, under the headline “Illegal mosque has not got a prayer!”  
The property was given a licence as a children’s day care centre in 1999, but councillors say there is no evidence of it being used for its intended purpose. The man who runs the mosque Kamal Siddiqui has admitted the after-school club is no longer running and said he should be allowed to provide a prayer house for Sunni Muslims. (It did genuinely run for a period as the Bubbley Childcare After School Club run by Mrs N Siddique and there is an Ofsted report on line to prove it)
 He claimed it had been used as a place of worship since 1996, meaning it was eligible for a retrospective licence. But a planning meeting in August kicked out the claim for a back-dated licence.
Said Cllr Benham:” The next step is we have got fines we can hand out. Or we can even board up the property.”
Kamal Siddique has been running an on-line appeal for funds to build his mosque for some years here and I thought an an audit of his charity may prove interesting.  His congregation have doubts as well. The Romford Recorder again.
Now, councillors fear the man who ran the mosque, Kamal Siddiqui, chairman of the Essex Islamic Trust, plans to turn another home into a mosque, after Cllr Benham was contacted on Saturday by a Muslim resident.
The man, who declined to be named, said local Muslims were against Mr Siddiqui's style of teaching and the way the Trust ran things in Havering and Brentwood.
He showed Cllr Benham a letter recently circulated by Mr Siddiqui to Muslims pleading for donations to enable the Trust to buy a property to be used as a mosque.
In the letter, Mr Siddiqui says he is struggling to achieve Havering's first mosque, and the Trust has bought a property for £280,000, and needs £25,000 to complete the purchase.
 
Nottingham Council are taking a similar robust attitude to breach of planning requirements by one city mosque. From This is Nottingham.
Leaders of a city mosque could face prosecution over an extension built without planning permission.
Council officers are urging councillors to approve enforcement action against the Madni Masjid Mosque in Gladstone Street. They will also be asked to decide if members of the mosque should be prosecuted for failure to provide information on planning breaches.
They have also said they are unhappy the extension has been built without proper planning permission. Now Council officers have drawn up a list of alterations needed to make the building acceptable. They include:
Alteration and removal of part of the roof of the extension
Reduction in the height of a wall
Prevention of windows from opening
Obscuring or partially obscuring first-floor windows
Bricking up ground-floor windows.
However Imam of the mosque Raza ul-Haq said there had been no major breach of planning rules and pledged to appeal against any enforcement action taken by the council. "We are employing a planning consultant and he has written to the council. We will appeal because they are wrong," he said.
The latest news is that the decision will be taken next month (December 2007).
The Nottingham Evening Post says . . . councillors voted to defer the decision so they could ask officers for more advice on whether asking the mosque to change certain parts of the building would mean they were saying the other non-permitted work was acceptable.
Councillor Dick Benson said: "We do not want to give an unfair advantage. They are getting something that, if they had followed the procedures, they may not have got."
 
Elsewhere in Nottingham the group Jamiat Ahle Hadith don’t want to get too overcome with excitement.
From The BBC. A former Nottingham pub could get a new lease of life - as a mosque.
The Jamiat Ahle Hadith group has paid about £350,000 for the old Boulevard pub on Alfreton Road and has started using it for worship. The building, erected in the 1890s, is being redeveloped although it has yet to receive planning permission. Nottingham City Council said it had received complaints about an increase in traffic since Jamiat Ahle Hadith started to use it for daily prayers. The authority said there was an issue with parking which needed to be addressed before planning consent could be given.
 
Redundant pubs seem to be a popular choice of site. Pendle Today reports that the Medina Mosque in Nelson are hoping to buy the former Spring Bank Hotel. If they do buy it, as a Grade II listed building I hope that the council are robust in maintaining the traditional look of the building. Then from the Lancashire Evening Post last August.
Preston Council's planning committee voted against proposals put forward by trustees of the Masjid-e-Salaam mosque in Fulwood, Preston . . . The application would have seen the existing mosque building, a former hotel, demolished and replaced with a bigger building, including a 17.5m tower.
Members also voted unanimously to reject separate plans to demolish the existing mosque building, a former hotel.
 
In the former steel town of Corby, 
A CONTROVERSIAL application for Corby's first mosque has been thrown out by planners.
Muslim leaders had applied to convert several homes in Westminster Walk on the Kingswood estate into a place of worship. But local people organised a petition against the application, saying it would cause them parking misery. Planning officers at Corby Council decided the application was not suitable for the residential area.
A Corby Council spokesman said: "The reasons for refusing the application were that the site in close proximity to residential properties is not suitable for a non-residential institution such as a place of worship; the existing low level of car parking is insufficient; and the steel palisade fencing and gates are not appropriate within a residential area.
"In refusing the application, Corby Council has acknowledged that the Muslim community requires this facility within the town and has offered to meet the applicant and his agent to discuss potential sites."
The place of worship had included a prayer hall, washing facilities, offices and even bedrooms.
The BNP have turned this round and are shrieking on their news site, “Council to help provide mosque for town!” Is the glass half full or half empty?
In Sheffield local Muslims were among those objecting to proposals to increase the size of the Fir Vale Mosque. From the Sheffield Telegraph.
Councillors unanimously rejected plans for the mosque and madressa, or religious school, on the corner of Barnsley Road and Osgathorpe Road, which was planned to replace the smaller mosque and portable outbuildings.
It would have seen the building of an Islamic-styled mosque with long arched windows, a dome and a minaret which would have been lit at night.  (A lot of churches are lit at night and look beautiful so I wouldn’t condemn the design solely for that reason.)
One resident told a packed Sheffield Council West and North Planning and Highways Area Board the new mosque would be "large and overbearing" and would lead to an increase in noise, traffic and a loss of lights for nearby residents. He said there were already six mosques within a radius of one mile.
Some members of the local Muslim community also spoke against the scheme saying the congestion, nuisance and noise it would create would impact on everyday life.
Maureen Green, whose sister 72-year-old Shirley Harrison lives next door to the proposed site, said her sister had been the target of intimidation, because of her opposition to the new mosque. She said: "She has had people waiting outside her house, graffiti sprayed on her windows and has been continually asked 'When are you moving?'."
 
Ipswich Mosque seems to be doing things properly and are applying for planning permission to extend their premises in the former fire station.
The mosque was established in the former fire station in Bond Street in the 1980s, but as the number of Muslims in the town has increased it has become increasingly cramped. Up to 400 men now attend Friday prayers' at the mosque every week. The mosque has applied for permission to change the use of two shops in Upper Orwell Street into an extension of the mosque. The application was submitted last week and is expected to be considered by the borough's planning and development committee early in the New Year. Eventually the Muslim community in Ipswich hopes to have a completely new £750,000 purpose-built mosque on the Bond Street site, but there is much fund-raising to be undertaken first.
Do you notice something?
Always men.
 “400 men attend”. “up to 30 men were regularly there until the early hours”. 
They try to justify the need for expansion so that they can accommodate women, but every other religion has the whole family attending their services no matter how small the place of worship.
 
Leyton Mosque wants to rebuild their premises so that they can offer more services, with the sexes suitably segregated.
Noor Ul Islam, in Leyton High Road, is currently based in a former video shop, snooker hall, and wine merchant's, and is seeking planning permission to replace them with a single modern building.
Yusuf Hasa, chairman of the Noor Ul Islam (Light of Islam) Trust, said the rebuilding exercise was not to increase the size of the building, but the scope of what could be offered there.
"We want to have a multi-purpose building where we can keep each room separate, so we can have different classes happening at the same time," he said.
There are a variety of activities open to non-Muslims, such as a health clinic, karate classes and talks and debates, while Muslims are offered counselling services, exercise groups and sewing classes, with the sexes segregated in accordance with Islamic law.
 
The Muslims of Redhill are demonstrating their faith in Allah by dreaming of their very own mega mosque, a 10,000 kneeler.
MONEY is being collected for a new £20 million mosque to be built in Redhill. Redhill Islamic Centre (RIC) has unveiled its plans for the mosque - which would be one of the biggest in Europe - and embarked on a fundraising drive, despite admitting it has not identified a suitable site.
The RIC committee presented its "vision" to worshippers at the Earlswood Road centre on the 27th night of religious festival Ramadan, and at the same time asked for donations for the project.
In a glossy brochure the centre committee printed and distributed, the centre states the mosque would be large enough for 10,000 worshippers. Mr Khalid Zia said they are aiming big to prepare for their own projection of the number of Muslims in the Redhill area in 40 years' time.
Councillor Ellacott said that he was keen to refute rumours that have been generated at the mosque, particularly when money is being collected for the project, that the borough council would be giving them land on which to build the mosque. He said: "The council cannot give land away . . . we cannot give them land, just as we wouldn't give land to a church or a school."
Councillor Mearns said: "Their big plan fits in with us because we like people with inspiration."
On Friday, a peaceful protest is going to be held by some members of the Muslim community outside the RIC, in objection to alleged managerial decisions to ban some children from the mosque.
 
What I want to know is where all the money is coming from. When an ancient and historic church needs repair we see the fund raising jumble sales and whist drives featured in the local paper. I know that Muslims will give generously to their Mosque but we are constantly told that they are poor, unemployed, low paid and marginalised. So they may be generous, but their means are limited, or so we are told, and the widow’s mite will not buy a very tall minaret. 
As a Muslim woman from Redhill said
having such a big mosque in an area like Redhill would make someone like me, a Muslim, think twice about living in Redhill. If I wanted such a big mosque near me, I would live in Saudi Arabia."
 
It must be coming from abroad. Hot country, two words, initials SA.  Yes, the Muslims of Shropshire have got the idea. For their new £1.5 million mosque which they want to build in Wellington’s former TAHQ (and planned to look like a North African castle) they plan to ask 
. . . the local community for cash, then the Muslim Council of Britain, Islamic Aid and Muslim Aid.
They also plan to approach international bodies based in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait which set aside funding to help build mosques throughout the world.
He added they would also be applying to English Heritage and other similar organisations for help with the cost of restoring the 1950s building.
 
And finally, once planning permission is granted for the revised scheme, the rebuilding or new building finally approved and the illegal bits lopped, just when you think you can relax, the next stage is, from the Oxford Mail,
Muslims in East Oxford are asking Oxford city councillors if they can add to the noise of life on Cowley Road by broadcasting a call to prayer.  The Central Mosque in Manzil Way, one of four East Oxford mosques, attracts congregations of up to 700.
Now, the Iman at the mosque, Mohammad Munir Christi, and other trustees, want permission to broadcast the call to prayer from the minaret.
The mosque has expanded since moving from Bath Road five years ago and building work has recently started on the first-floor worship area with the completion of the central cupola.
Sardar Rana, 68, a spokesman for the Central Mosque, said the call would be broadcast three times a day from early next year if permission is granted.
The call to prayer would be made in the central hall and then linked to three speakers in the minaret, which would point in different directions.
"I hope the majority of people would not object to this - I don't think it would disturb anybody, but I don't know yet how loud we would be able to broadcast the call."
The comments suggest that the idea is not universally welcome locally.
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