July 24 2014 Latest news:
by Mark Shales, Reporter
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Plans to create a permanent mosque in an old Dagenham post office have been rejected by the government.
An application to change the now-empty shop at 539 Rainham Road to a “community/cultural centre” was denied by Barking and Dagenham Council last year, but an appeal was lodged days later.
Between a sandwich shop and a fast-food restaurant, the building had been used as a trial worship centre for 12 months from July 2012.
However, with various restrictions limiting roadside parking, an inspector for the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG), Timothy King, dismissed the appeal on grounds of road safety and access.
The change, he said, “would give rise to a level of traffic generation and resultant on-street parking demand, prejudicial to the free flow of traffic and harmful to highway safety”.
Murad Haider, 36, director of Group Cars, a few doors down, launched a petition last year to save the mosque.
“Parking wasn’t really an issue because there’s so much space on the surrounding side roads,” he said. “The majority of people walked anyway.
“It’s not the end of the world because we’ve been provided with other places to worship instead, but they’re much harder for elderly people to get to.”
The centre had a membership of under 100 and no more than 50 were expected at any one time.
Tariq Baig, 48, owner of Toho Motors and a neighbour of Mr Haider, described it as “a sad decision”.
“There are quite a few churches around here but no mosque,” he said, “so we have to drive elsewhere.
“It ultimately comes down to a lack of a big Muslim community here and a lack of integration.”
But not everyone was disappointed by the decision.
Mr Harrison, 72, who lives a few doors down and declined to give his first name, told the Post: “It’s just not a suitable area and there isn’t enough parking.”
A council spokesperson said: “The council is sympathetic to the difficulties community groups can face in finding suitable premises.
“However, in this instance, the council was concerned about the impact on highway safety, an issue that had also been raised by local residents, and is satisfied the inspector upheld our original decision.”
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