Thursday, November 01, 2012

Families in West Ham speak out over so-called ‘mega-mosque’ plans


Neighbours to the so-called ‘Mega mosque’ believe it would completely dwarf the surrounding conservation areas and fail to serve a mixed community if given the go-ahead.
Residents near the site in Canning Road, West Ham – owned by Islamic movement Tablighi Jamaat – have spoken about what they describe as real concerns about the project despite fears of being labelled Islamophobic. It comes after mosque backers put their case to the Recorder earlier this month.
The residents of Abbey Lane told the Recorder they worry not only about the scale of the planned Riverine Centre, also known as Abbey Mills Mosque –which at 29,227 square metres is more than three times the floorspace of St Paul’s Cathedral – but fear a parking nightmare due to its 9,000 capacity.
They say no proper public consultation has been held to reflect the current plans, which they say serve almost exclusively one Islamic group rather than the whole community.
Mike Duff, a 33-year-old director of an urban planning consultancy, is among the residents who have put their objections to the council and mosque backers.
He said: “I worked for six years in Saudi Arabia and helped At-Turaif, the village where Wahab Islam, the strictest interpretation of Islam globally, was founded to achieve Unesco World Heritage Status, so being anti-Muslim is the furthest thing from my mind. I understand where they are coming from with regard to practising their religion.
“But the scale of this mosque is completely unsuitable for this location, I would feel the same if it was a church of that size.
“The building would dominate the view from the Greenway and all the listed sites around here such as Three Mills with the world’s largest surviving tidal mill and the Abbey Mills Pumping Station.”
His partner Michelle Wilson, 38, feels the project will hardly be of any use to the general community other than for worshippers, adding: “The proposals we were consulted about at the beginning of the year were completely different and included residential and retail units.
“We were happier with that although we were still concerned about the scale of the mosque and not getting guarantees that housing would not be restricted to Tablighi Jamaat members.”
Kevin Fitzgerald, a retired sociology university lecturer, fears parking problems if the plan goes ahead, saying: “Most of the current worshippers come by car and the idea you can suddenly get most of them to come by public transport is at best naive.
“No more than the current 300 parking spaces are proposed despite the number of worshippers being multiplied by five. ”
There are also fears the decontamination of the land ahead of building works risk polluting the air and ground water.
Moira Storey, a 54-year-old academic manager said: “We need assurance from the planning authorities that an independent examination of the land is carried out and guarantees are in place to ensure the land will be properly cleaned and made safe before permission is given.”

Mr Duff concluded: “The land presents an amazing opportunity to really regenerate it for the whole of the community. We are not saying the land owners should not be allowed to practise their faith, but it should not be at the expense of local residents.”

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