- Dylan Butt, 57, from Trafford Council, claim villagers were 'Islamophobic'
- The Conservative councillor wrote letters to those opposing new mosque
- The £2m Islamic centre with cafe and gallery planned for Greenbelt land
A pensioner claims his Asian councillor branded him ‘Islamophobic’ after objecting to plans for a mosque and Islamic community centre on greenbelt land near his home.
Maurice Rushby, 67, said he raised ‘legitimate concerns’ about proposals for the 20,000 sq ft, £2million building on a former farmer’s field – but was accused of racism when he asked how it could be opposed.
Conservative councillor and former mayor Dylan Butt is now being investigated by Trafford Council over claims he failed to comply with its code of conduct, it is understood.
Dylan Butt, 57, (left) a Conservative councillor at Trafford Council, in Greater Manchester, is being investigated after the former mayor, who previously met Sir Alex Ferguson (right), used the race card against villagers opposing a mosque
The row centres on plans drawn up by the Altrincham and Hale Muslim Association to build a two-storey base in the village of Timperley near Altrincham, Greater Manchester.
Described as a ‘pavilion in the park’, the plans were drawn up after years of discussion with planners.
The new building would include two main prayer halls, a ‘garden of contemplation’, a cafe and gallery space, plus parking for 165 vehicles.
The AHMA said there was a ‘compelling and urgent need’ for the facility as the group has outgrown its base at a former church nearby.
But locals fear the plans could increase traffic, and more than 1,500 have signed a petition opposing the development. Retired chemical engineer Mr Rushby, 67, emailed Mr Butt asking:
‘There have been numerous rumours regarding the development of a large mosque.
Are you are aware of this proposed development and what do we need to do to oppose it?’
Local residents Mile Harrison (right) and Maurice Rushby (pictured in front of the proposed site) say Mr Butt's suggestion of 'Islamophobia' was a 'clumsy attempt' to suggest racism
Today Butt (left) was probed by legal officials at the Tory-run Trafford Council, in Greater Manchester, over claims he failed to comply with the authority’s code of conduct
View of the proposed Greenbelt site, just 100 metres from the home of resident Mike Harrison
Mr Butt replied, listing other planning issues near Mr Rushby’s home in Timperley and asking the Homewatch co-ordinator why he had not complained about them.
The councillor added: ‘There is a significant sized Muslim community within the area which has expressed a genuine need for relocating from their existing centre to another nearby larger site.
‘We cannot start jumping up and down as soon as some individuals contact us to oppose anything regarded as a wind-up as you put it.
The row erupted after plans to build the Islamic centre on Greenbelt land opposite a garden centre near the village of Timperley were unveiled last August (artists impression pictured)
‘This would be considered as tantamount to Islamophobia if it is not argued on planning guidelines.
You or indeed I as a local councillor would not wish to be accused of such attitudes.’
But Mr Rushby accused Mr Butt of ‘hiding behind his race card’. ‘I am deeply upset and offended by even the suggestion that my actions maybe racially motivated,’ he said yesterday.
‘His mention of the word “Islamophobia” is totally irrelevant and unnecessary.
If Mr Butt was to disagree with a point I made I would never suggest he was being “Christianophobic”.
He added: ‘His actions are improper and tantamount to bullying.’
No formal application for the mosque has yet been submitted to Trafford Council.
Up to 1,800 locals have signed a petition fighting the mosque plans, and a demonstration is due to be held at the weekend.
The AHMA says the land is more like brownfield than greenbelt and pledges to address traffic concerns.
Its newsletter said: ‘The inspiration for the project was to conceive and capture a simple and elegant structure that would sit quietly in the landscape and would encourage contemplation and reflection.’
Mr Butt was elected to Trafford Council in 2004 and served as Mayor in 2013 and 2014.
Three years ago he awarded former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson the Freedom of the Borough. He did not respond to requests for comment.
In a letter, director of legal and democratic services at Trafford Council Jane Le Fevre said: ‘The councillor has five working days to make written representations to me.’
The £2million Islamic community centre is expected to want to include two main prayer halls a 'garden of contemplation', a cafe, gallery space and parking for 165 vehicles
Up to 1,800 locals have signed a petition fighting the plans and a demonstration is due to be held at the weekend. Pictured Mr Harrison (left) and Mr Rushby (right) on the site