Salafi mosque gets go-ahead – led by team that looks after royal palaces
by- 25th May 2011
Plans for a huge mosque in East London that has occupied one of the most heavily contaminated sites in London for 14 years, all but five of them illegally, are back on – led by a consultancy team with royal connections.
Malcolm Reading Consultants will direct the re-development of the controversial Abbey Mills mosque site, next to the Olympic stadium, during its further stay of execution, following an appeal decision on Monday this week.
The firm has Trusteeship of the Historic Royal Palaces – a government appointment – including the Tower of London and Kensington Palace.
Mosque Trustees say they are ‘delighted’ the Inspector upheld their appeal which is ‘positive and constructive’, according to a statement issued by their PR company Communications Management.
The appeal decision allows the group – the Islamic revivalist movement Tablighi Jama’at – to continue to worship, subject to conditions, on the site they bought in 1997, for another two years while Britain’s top professionals develop a Master Plan for them.
Newham Council had finally enforced a notice to quit last year- four years after temporary permission expired in 2006.
The Trustees, Anjuman-E-Islahul-Muslimeen of London, who tend to shun the use of English, are retaining eight professional consulting companies from private donations.
They now have 21 months in which to come up with a Master Plan that meets 20 stringent conditions concerning landscaping, building safety, pollution, parking, and traffic management. Social cohesion considerations raised by Muslim expert witnesses were largely dismissed by the Inspector.
There are no other mosques of adequate size in Newham, according to the Inspector, who said he recognized the need for a building that would replace those presently used by 2,000 worshippers on a Thursday night, and around 750 for the obligatory Friday prayers.
The mosque – known locally as ‘the markaz’ or headquarters – has been re-branded Abbey Mills Riverine Centre, near West Ham station, to appeal to the 'whole community'.
The project aims to develop ‘a genuine mixed-use scheme comprising both faith and non-faith based uses’.
The Trustees’ website says the proposals will provide the area with ‘amenities for the whole local community to enjoy’.
They add: ‘We chose this site as we are committed to the regeneration of Newham.’
Plans would restore the land which operated for over a hundred years as a chemical factory site. Residues still detectable include mercury, lead, arsenic, fuel and oil contaminants, fuel hydrocarbons, phenols and acidity.
Said the Inspector, Graham Dudley: ‘There is no disagreement between the parties that the land is seriously contaminated, with an early report to the appellant indicating that this could be one of the most heavily contaminated sites in London.’
It appears that worshippers continued to sleepover illegally after Thursday night vigils, even while preparing for the appeal.
The inspector noted that ‘on the advice of the fire officer this had now apparently ceased, although sleeping bags were still seen on the site very recently’.
He described the present buildings as ‘unsafe’ and ‘at considerable risk of failure’.
Newham Concern, the local residents group who opposed the appeal, issued a statement this week in which they described the appeal decision as ‘unjust’.
‘For years Tablighi Jama’at have deliberately flouted building regulations and planning laws’, said Alan Craig, Newham Concern’s campaign director and former leader of the Opposition on Newham Council.
‘This is ominous for the future development of this key site. It is unjust, as the rest of us are expected to act within the law of the land or we get penalised.’
Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, Trustee of British Muslims for Secular Democracy who submitted evidence against the mosque on social cohesion grounds, described the decision as 'very sad'.
'Wahhabi salafi Islam pursues a very separatist version of Islam and this will continue to divide not just the wider society but also the Muslim community as well.
'Where the salafi ideology has gone, it has brought conflict and hatred for non-Muslims.
'What this decision is basically doing is burying all the problems for the time being for future generations to tackle.'