Nationalist groups plan to stage Dagenham demos every three weeks
15:31 23 February 2011
FAR-RIGHT groups are forging ahead with a campaign of street protests in an attempt to stop a mosque and community centre opening in Dagenham.
The English Nationalist Alliance (ENA) has pledged to stage demonstrations every three weeks to prevent the opening of the facility in Green Lane, given the go-ahead despite 1,300 objections last month.
The ENA announced its next protest will take place with the English Defence League on March 5, as it emerged the only way to overturn the planning decision would be to call for a judicial review.
Organisations would have until the end of next week to apply for the High Court review, given the strict, six-week legal deadline. A review could also incur considerable legal costs and protesters would have to demonstrate the planning decision made by councillors on January 17 had either been unlawful, irrational or biased.
The ENA, EDL and the British National Party – which held the first protest on February 5 – argue that residents’ views were ignored in light of the number of objections.
They also highlight that planning officers recommended the plans be turned down but were overturned by a narrow majority of eight to seven councillors at Barking Town Hall.
ENA spokesman Bill Baker said: “Many of us are Dagenham residents, or have roots in Dagenham, and feel that this whole situation is going to create disharmony in the community if this centre is allowed to continue.
“On March 5 the ENA has again organised a demonstration in Green Lane and this is being backed by the EDL. We will keep returning to Green Lane every three weeks.”
Barking and Dagenham Council this week declined to comment on a potential legal challenge but indicated earlier this month the new centre, due to open by the autumn, would bring benefits to the community.
A council spokesman said: “Fourteen letters of support were submitted along with a petition supporting the proposal with 251 signatures. The scheme is a community centre which provides a number of services which all groups within the area can take advantage of.”
A spokesman for the Islamic Society said last month: “We are making the effort to bring understanding and harmony between our members and the wider community. We will be constructing a facility which will provide services to others outside our community. It’s not the council or local community but us with our good intentions that will be providing this.”