May 19 2013 Latest news:
Matt Nicholls, Reporter
Monday, May 23, 2011
An Islamic group planning a so-called “mega mosque” in West Ham have won a challenge to keep their current base open.
Leaders of Tablighi Jamaat were bidding to overturn an enforcement notice served on their Riverine Centre in Canning Road by Newham Council in February 2010.
The council wanted to see the temporary facility — which consists of pre-fabricated and demountable buildings — shut down amid fears over traffic levels, land contamination and visual impact.
Temporary planning permission was granted in 2001, but expired in 2006, since when the group have continued to use the site.
At a public inquiry at Newham Town Hall, East Ham, held earlier this year, the group argued they should be granted a two-year extension.
And in a decision notice published today, planning inspector Graham Dudley granted their request — despite admitting harm would be caused to the area and that there was a history of non-compliance with planning guidelines.
He said the “substantial need” for religious facilities and the scarcity of land and finances for new community buildings outweighed the negative factors.
Any further extension would be conditional on Tablighi Jamaat preparing a masterplan for the 9,000-capacity Abbey Mills Mosque, which is planned for the same site, he added. A planning application is expected to be submitted later this year.
Mr Dudley imposed a series of conditions on the planning grant, including requirements for an “ecological buffer zone” to safeguard the nearby environment, a travel plan and structural repairs, as well as improving access for the disabled.
He did not rule on claims made at the inquiry by Newham Concern, a group opposed to the mosque and headed by Christian People’s Alliance politician and former Newham Council opposition leader Alan Craig.
During the inquiry their barrister, John Pugh-Smith, accused Tablighi Jamaat of being an “Islamic sect that preaches separation and segregation”, but the group has always insisted it is peaceful and non-political. In a statement, the trustees of the Riverine Centre said: “This is a very positive and constructive move. It enables us to continue to worship while we prepare plans for a permanent scheme on our site.”
“We are working with the planning authorities to create a mixed use scheme that meets both the needs of our community and the planning requirements of the statutory authorities.”
A Newham Council spokesman said: “The current situation cannot continue and in our view his judgement makes this clear.
“We believe the government’s inspector has acknowledged our concerns by imposing stringent conditions on the trust.
“We will continue to take robust and fair enforcement action on this and any other non-compliance issues across the borough.”