Police drafted in for public meeting over proposed Islamic centre
Police have been needed at a Leicester council meeting due to controversial plans for a new Islamic education centre in a heavily Hindu-populated area of the city.
In a sign of the heightened tensions in communities across Britain, up to half a dozen officers from Leicestershire Police were seen stood outside City Hall on Wednesday evening as 200 people flocked to the hotly anticipated planning meeting.
The visible police presence was accompanied by around a dozen security guards inside the council house as the planning application to convert a former warehouse on Belper Street, Belgrave, into Muslim prayer room, education centre and nursery was debated by elected representatives. It is understood the event passed without incident.
Over 5,000 people, including Leicester East MP Keith Vaz, had objected to the proposals primarily due to the general disturbance and traffic generated by the new development, dubbed a mosque because of its prayer facilities. Others opposed the application by Fusion Consulting Services Ltd down to concerns about having an Islamic place of worship so close to a nearby Hindu temple and church.
One official objection, by Ms B Patel, stated: “Congestion would worsen. Social tensions would be increased, similar to East Park Road, due to such close proximity of Hindu and Muslim places of worship. Leicester already has many good quality mosques within a short walk of this location, another one is not required.”
The Islamic centre had been recommended for refusal by council officers and following a lively discussion committee members voted by five votes to two to reject the application, with one abstention, on the grounds that the plans would lead to more residential noise and disturbance.
Fayyaz Suleman, agent for the project, told the meeting: “The planners appear to have been influenced by other subjective factors and local politicians.”
He also later confirmed that there would be an appeal against the decision made by Leicester City Council, citing “political pressure” and “outside influences” as factors for its refusal.
The case echoes another contentious planning dispute in London’s Golders Green where the Centre of Islamic Enlightening want to create an Islamic centre and mosque in the heart of one of the city’s largest Jewish communities. That case has yet to be ruled on by Barnet Council after also amassing thousands of objections from local residents.