PLANS to build a new centre for West Berkshire’s Muslim community have been refused.
The proposals involve converting redundant offices in Pound Court – previously occupied by M4 Design – for the purposes of religious instruction, worship, education, training and indoor leisure use.
However, despite being situated yards away from its current home, the mosque in Pound Street, district council planners turned down the Bangladesh Welfare Centre’s application.
The centre says it is planning to appeal the decision and, if successful, wants to move into the new building by the time its current lease expires in 2020.
Earlier this year, the Newbury Weekly News reported that an anonymous letter was posted to residents, urging them to object to the plans.
West Berkshire Council received 271 letters of representation, most raising objection, with some in support.
There were also 88 letters with personal details withheld or that were not considered suitable for publication.
The main areas of concern were highway congestion, lack of parking, numbers gathering, noise and disturbance from activities, new building and use not appropriate to location or Newbury.
Giving its reasons for refusal, the council said: “Given the location of the site, close to a traffic signalised junction and likely number of attendees (up to 110) during Friday prayers (between 1pm and 2pm), there is insufficient off-street parking provided, which could result in vehicles stopping on the highway to drop off/collect worshippers, or reversing onto the highway.
“This could obstruct traffic flow and the operation of the junction, which would be to the detriment of highway safety and the free-flow of traffic.
“It is admittedly only once a week, but it is considered on balance that the numbers expected are enough to cause concern in such proximity to a traffic signal junction on a route into the town centre.
“The proposed development is in an area of mixed residential and commercial use, close to Newbury town centre.
“Insufficient information has been provided by the applicant to enable a thorough assessment of potential noise and disturbance from the proposed use.
“The application is therefore considered likely to result in undue disturbance to neighbouring residential amenities.”
However, outlining the positive impact the new centre would have, the council said: “The site is located within the defined settlement of Newbury in the town centre commercial area.
“While the proposed change of use would result in the loss of an office building, the new use would provide a community facility, helping to promote a healthy community.
“The site, at the edge of the town centre commercial area, is within a sustainable location and the use would contribute to the viability and vitality of the community and town centre.”