PLANNING OFFICERS for Newham Council in east London have recommended a 12,000-capacity mosque - which would be the size of Battersea Power Station and become the headquarters of Islamic sect Tablighi Jamaat - should be refused.
They said the design was ‘monolithic, incongruous and overly dominant’ and that it would not be beneficial to the West Ham community as a whole.
If councillors on the Special Strategic Development Committee follow this advice when they meet to discuss the application next week, the controversial group, who have been linked to the July 7 bombers and shoe-bomber Richard Reid, could now be forced to leave the site in Canning Road completely.
Their battle to secure the site as a place of worship has spanned more than a decade - but is not over yet.
The group first submitted plans in 1999. In 2001, it agreed that worship would only be on a temporary basis. Permission expired in 2006 but the group continued to use the site.
In 2010, the council issued an enforcement notice but it successfully appealed against it last year, and more than 5,000 people a week now congregate at the site which houses several pre-fab buildings.
The plans for the site include creating Britain's biggest place of worship with 59 metre-high minarets, a library, a visitors centre and – for the first time, worship facilities for women.
It would hold four times as many worshippers as St Paul's Cathedral which has a capacity of 2,400.
Newham Council's Special Strategic Development Committee will meet on Wednesday 5th December to make a decision on the proposal.
The planning office has received 3,000 letters opposing the scheme and more than 25,000 in support, only 1per cent of which came from within the specific consultation area.
Muslim opponents say Tablighi Jamaat is a ‘sect’ that preaches ‘separation and segregation’.
The group maintains that its main objective is peaceful missionary work.
Alan Craig, campaign director of Newham Concern, and a former Newham councillor, said he hoped the councillors would follow the planning officers’ recommendations.
‘The advice to reject the plan is a major step forward in our fight to prevent it going through.
‘We have huge concerns about the group behind it.
‘Our hope is they get turfed off altogether.’
In a report to the planning committee, lead officer Jo Negrini, said: ‘The combined mass, scale, footprint, height and bulk of the proposed development will together result in the introduction of a building that will be monolithic, incongruous and overly dominant in relation to both the application site and the surroundings, causing material harm in particular to visual amenity and townscape value.’
She said the reasons the application should be refused included the fact that its ‘faith-based use proportionately dominates the application site.’
The Council had worked with the applicants to remedy the over-emphasis on a faith-based use, which they had ignored. The outline plans fail on more than 50 planning grounds.
Nonetheless the fight is not over yet. Boris Johnson, Mayor of London who is keen to see a mosque built on the site, has the final say.
Says the report: ‘The Mayor of London has advised that the principle of a new mosque in this location is supported subject to scale, impact and local circumstances, but that the application as submitted is contrary to the London Plan.’
The Report states: ‘If the Council resolves to make a draft decision on the application at this Committee meeting the Council must consult the Mayor again and allow him fourteen days to decide whether to allow the draft decision to proceed unchanged, or direct the Council to refuse the application, or issue a direction that he is to act as the local planning authority for the purpose of determining the application.’
Site owners, the so-called Anjuman-E-Islahul-Muslimeen of London UK Trust, Tablighi Jamaat’s ‘charitable trust’ which is not registered with the Charity Commission, is likely to appeal if its plan is thrown out.
They have temporary permission to remain in the pre-fab mosque on site until May 2013.
The application is to be considered by the Council's Strategic Development Committee on Wednesday 5th December 2012 at 7.00pm in the Old Town Hall, 29 The Broadway, Stratford, E15 4BQ.
For the full report on the recommendations visit:
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