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Newham Council ‘considering next steps’ over West Ham ‘mega-mosque’ (28/06/12)

Luke Jacobs, Newham Recorder, Thursday June 28, 2012

Islamic leaders hoping to push through plans to build a permanent ‘mega-mosque’ in West Ham have denied claims they could be thrown off the site. Tablighi Jama’at already occupies an area of Canning Road and has proposed erecting a 9,500 capacity religious building with 40m high minarets, a library, and a visitors centre. But it has emerged that the group signed a deed of unilateral undertaking with Newham Council in February.

A document released last week appears to state that the group agreed to submit a valid planning application within 12 months or face removal from the site. But a spokesman insisted a basic application has been lodged with the council and was going through the “validation process.” “I’m surprised to hear this,” she said. “Our basic application was submitted by the end of the February. As you can imagine, it was an enormous application.” The proposals have come under attack from campaigners who say Tablighi Jama’at is extreme and isolationist and risks turning West Ham into an “Islamic ghetto”. If built, the site will contain five public spaces, described as “character zones”.

One will house the visitor centre and others a nature trail. The mosque will be equivalent to an eight-storey building, while apartments will range from four to seven storeys high. Former Newham Cllr and director of the MegaMosqueNoThanks campaign group. Alan Craig said: “We are urging Newham Council to move them off the site and to knock down the buildings.

So far more than 3,000 leaflets have been distributed to residents near the site by volunteers from the MegaMosqueNoThanks team. It would not be the first time the religious group has battled with the council over its right to remain on the site. Planning officers served an enforcement notice in February 2010 in order to shut it down over concerns at traffic levels, land contamination, and visual impact.

But Tablighi Jama’at was granted a two-year extension in May 2011 following a public inquiry. A Newham Council spokesman confirmed the group had failed to submit a valid planning application by the February 28 deadline. He said: “We are aware of the situation and are currently considering next steps. At this time, to avoid prejudicing any future action, we cannot comment further.”

 

Postscript from Newham Concern:

The above Newham Recorder article confuses the separate time periods allowed for the submission of a valid planning application by (a) the Planning Inspector’s formal Decision following the Planning Inquiry of February 2011; and (b) the mosque trustees own Unilateral Deed of Undertaking also dated February 2011.

Under the former, the trustees have been given until May 2013 by the Planning Inspector to submit a valid planning application. Under the latter, the trustees voluntarily undertook to submit their application by February 2012 or, they promised, they would willingly vacate the site.

Under the terms of the latter the trustees should leave the site, as by the end of June 2012 they still have not submitted a valid planning application. Clear legal advice is that Newham Council could now take enforcement action to remove them from the site without the right of appeal, as the mosque trustees have broken the terms of the Deed of Undertaking.

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