KING’S LYNN — Hundreds of objections have been made to a proposed Islamic community centre. West Norfolk planning committee is on Monday due to consider an application for the centre to open in Lynn’s former Queen’s Arms pub.
A report to the committee recommends approval of the plan subject to certain conditions. They include restricted opening hours, to avoid disturbance to neighbours, and submission of a travel plan to encourage walking to the centre and discourage users being “dropped off” in busy London Road.
West Norfolk Islamic Association wants to change the use of the pub to a venue for prayers, children’s studies, meetings and social gatherings to support about 80 Muslim families in the Lynn area.
Opposition to the plan included 140 letters and a 735-signature petition. Concerns raised included traffic congestion, loss of the pub, the lack of need for the centre and the impact on the surrounding conservation area. Other fears included a lack of access for emergency vehicles, the centre becoming a target for vandalism and the effect on property prices.
The committee will hear that the application accords with council policy on community and culture and activities carried out would be quiet. Criticism based on the Islamic nature of the centre was not a valid planning objection.
If approved, the centre’s opening hours could be restricted to 7am to 11.30pm, Monday to Saturday, and 8am to 10pm on Sundays and bank holidays.
And who is behind the opposition to this development? Over at the website of the British Freedom Party, we find the BFP’s local organiser Stephen Tweed boasting: “I am running a campaign against a planning application to convert a former King’s Lynn pub into an ‘Islamic Community Centre’.” He adds: “In a bid to have this development blocked, I am organising a leafleting campaign and a petition in the town centre and other places.”
Tweed also outs himself as one of the individuals whose objections to the Islamic community centre were removed from West Norfolk Council’s website under their policy of vetting comments for racist or inflammatory content.
We don’t know the precise wording of Tweed’s deleted objections but he gives us an idea of his preferred terminology in a comment posted on the BFP website, where he appeals to supporters of his anti-mosque campaign: “Anyone in the vicinity of the London road on a Friday dinnertime, please keep an eye out for bearded scum anywhere near the old Queens arms. Thanks.”
And if we head over to Tweed’s Facebook page we find that his profile picture is a photo of a burning mosque: