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"Offensive" objections to muslim centre plans

"It’s a sad representation of Newbury"

Chris Ord

Reporter:

Chris Ord

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01635 886639

New Muslim community centre plan is rejected

THE fact that dozens of objections to a new centre for West Berkshire’s muslim community were so offensive they were unable to be published, is a “sad representation of Newbury”.

That was the view of Newbury town councillor Elizabeth O’Keeffe (Lib Dem, Victoria), who was speaking at a planning and highways committee meeting last Monday.

Earlier this month West Berkshire Council rejected plans for the new community centre in Pound Street, owing to a lack of parking spaces and extra traffic.

The application – to turn the empty offices into a new centre for religious instruction, worship, education, training and indoor leisure – garnered 271 letters of representation, with most raising objection.

And, according to the planning officer’s report, there were 88 letters with personal details withheld or that were considered “not suitable for publication”.

Discussing the matter at the recent town council meeting, Ms O’Keeffe said: “This isn’t really to do with West Berkshire’s planning decision, but it’s a sad representation of Newbury that there were so many objections that were anonymous.”

Chairman Anthony Pick (Con, St John’s) pointed out: “The ones that were anonymous were not anonymous. They were rejected for bad language – they were so offensive they could not be included.

Ms O’Keeffe replied: “Yes, well as a resident I consider that just absolutely awful.”

The Bangladesh Welfare Centre had wanted to move from its current home in Pound Lane to the redundant office building in Pound Court.

However, despite being just yards away from the mosque, West Berkshire Council highways officers objected to the proposed move on safety grounds.

The site has just nine car parking spaces, while up to 110 worshippers could be expected to attend Friday prayers.

Some questioned why a site so close to an existing mosque could be deemed unsuitable.

But speaking at the meeting on Monday, Newbury Town Council leader Adrian Edwards (Con, Falkland) argued that the Bangladesh Welfare Centre should not have been allowed use of the current building as a place of worship either.

He said: “There was no planning application.

“They didn’t even have change of use and it really was a most unsuitable venue because of lack of parking – anyone who lives on Pound Street knows that.

“It was a pity really that it was allowed in the first place because then they would have had to find a better site.”

Ms O’Keeffe said the town council should work with faith groups and other organisations in the future to help them identify suitable locations in the town.

“I think this is a good example of how the town council could liaise with these groups to help them find appropriate sites,” she said.

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Article comments

  • CDole

    23/11/2017 - 20:08

    All the councillors must realise that left of center liberalism is no longer accepted by the majority of the electorate and people no longer allow themselves to be branded as intolerant or racist just because they are concerned about issues regarding religion or immigration. Islamists are regarded with suspicion, for numerous extremely good reasons and stopping it's expansion is critical for many people. The fact that local politicians refuse to understand this is the sad thing here. Interesting to learn that the current mosque has no planning permission. I'll bet my house that nothing is done about that!

    Reply

    • Tommy

      24/11/2017 - 09:09

      Couldn't put it better myself, especially the bit about the lack of planning permission.

      Reply

    • Jeff 68

      23/11/2017 - 22:10

      I am certainly not left of centre but I believe in a tolerant and fair minded society and being somebody who has lived in the town for 22 years I have never seen any of the Bangladeshi men who attend the mosque cause any disruption or misbehave.They work in local restaurants,so they are welcome to cook your curry but not to pray or have a community centre.They are no bother,it's a flawed debate.

      Reply

      • spikey

        spikey

        24/11/2017 - 09:09

        But a lot them come further from Newbury, Basingstoke, reading, London, it’s not just local men or women that attends this place of worship, that doesn’t have legal right to use a building for worship. Every day it is congested with them standing on a thin pavement and when people need to walk pass, they are forced into traffic. Plus they also park in co-ops parking and anywhere along pound street and enborne road, and rocking ham road.Even the leader of the place parks his big 4x4 near my girlfriends driveway that obstructs the view on where you can not see if their is traffic coming from pound street or turning out of rocking ham road. It is bad enough with the big lorries. To me this men are ignorant part from small portion of these men work in restaurants in town. The rest are not even from Berkshire. If they want a new place to worship why don’t they move into bigger place with off road parking instead of clogging up the roads and take all the free parking on the roads.

        Reply

        • Bobby

          24/11/2017 - 15:03

          How do you know the majority aren't even from Berkshire? Have you asked them? If they're blocking the pavement, have you tried saying "excuse me"? Your argument on parking is invalidated by your own statement. You said it's free parking. i.e it's free to use by anyone. Not just the residents who live on the street.

          Reply

        • Jeff 68

          24/11/2017 - 18:06

          As I.explainrd previously they are law abiding and polite.There are plenty of local.groups and activities that make roads busy and create a slight inconvenience but the participants aren't Asian and Muslim. If I felt the mosque was a hot bed of extremism and hatred I would oppose any extension of its size and status It clearly isn't though and the opposition appears petty and racist in.some cases.

          Reply

  • NewburyDenizen

    22/11/2017 - 17:05

    I disagree with any form of established religion, it's all a total waste of time, but as with many things in this life, it's an unavoidable evil, so if people feel the need to base their lives around a fairy tale of one flavour or another, then fine, so long as they don't force it down other's throats or use it as an excuse for violence, I'll tolerate it just as I tolerate the disturbing lack of common sense and compassion on display any day of the week. I'd have let them have their building, it's a better use of the structure than it sitting vacant.

    Reply

  • Louise

    Louise

    22/11/2017 - 17:05

    Councillor says "sad"; I say is representative of the local electorate, including her constituents.

    Reply

    • NewburyJon

      23/11/2017 - 15:03

      The fact that 88 letters of objection had to be rejected because of foul and abusive language being a representation of the electorate and her constituents is really sad. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but opinions can be voiced without having to resort to foul and abusive language. With these 88 letters being anonymous speaks volumes of the individuals writing them.

      Reply

      • spikey

        spikey

        24/11/2017 - 09:09

        Pot the kettle black Newburyjohn after your comment about the girls in the Christmas ad. In nwn. Shame on you.

        Reply

      • spikey

        spikey

        24/11/2017 - 09:09

        Pot the kettle black Newburyjohn after your comment about the girls in the Christmas ad. In nwn. Shame on you.

        Reply

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