Birmingham UK: Islamic centre faces move after planning bid lost

An Islamic centre based in Smethwick faces being forced off its site after it lost a planning bid to stay as a place of worship.

The Gambian Islamic Centre’s bid to remain on its site in Windmill Lane was thrown out by Sandwell Council.

Planning officers claimed the centre, which is also used as a prayer hall, ‘conflicts with the existing uses’ inside its home Tudor Works.

The Islamic Centre has been operating for eight years and currently has between 40 to 60 members.

Planners say that complaints have been received regarding vehicles parking on unrestricted areas, and that continued use could result in noise and disturbance should the congregation grow in the future.

But centre member, Lamin Yaffa, said he was saddened by the decision saying the move could leave them without a home.

Mr Yaffa, who is a foundry worker, said they operate the site as a Gambian Islamic Centre and do not class it as a mosque but do observe prayer times.

He said: “We deserve a right to operate here as we are helping the greater community and are an important part of that.

“We teach English classes and help all generations with the work we do.

“We are all from different backgrounds and by teaching our members English we ensure they can help their children with homework. This is about thinking of our wider public benefit too.

“For me to have to break news like this to our members is very stressful and I just hope that Sandwell Council can work alongside us in supporting our work in whatever alternative way they can. As a community we have no other place to go in Birmingham – Cape Hill is where we class our home.”

Officers stated that refusal was also recommended due to the site ‘having a detrimental effect on users’.

Comments from the planning application said: “I am mindful that such facilities require flexibility in hours of use, in order to observe their religious calendar, nevertheless an unrestricted use could also result in noise and disturbance should the congregation grow in the future.

“To this effect I consider that the site conflicts with existing lawful uses and has a detrimental effect on users of the highway due to increase comings and goings and unsatisfactory parking provision.”

Mr Yaffa, who has lived and worked in Cape Hill since 1995, added: “Most of our members walk as they live locally and those who don’t ensure that they park sensibly in surrounding streets and don’t obstruct anyone.

“All we wanted was a safer, more accessible car park.

“The centre is maintained by the community and we look after it.”

SOURCE; Express & Star

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