Mosque application rejected in heated meeting

Planning permission for a mosque in Worcester Park was unanimously turned down by councillors after a lively meeting last night.

Councillors said the proposed mosque in Green Road would bring too much traffic to the area and voted to refuse planning permission after hearing arguments from concerned neighbours and from the project’s backers.

Around 300 people attended the meeting, as well as several police officers, and there were loud cheers as the councillors voted. During the meeting the chairman had to ask the audience to calm down on several occasions as speakers were interrupted by loud heckling.

Sutton Council’s development control committee met at Cheam High School to allow for room for as many of the hundreds of people who wrote in protest against and support of the proposal to turn the Old Bank Chamber into a mosque.

The plan was to use the building, which has been vacant for more than three years but used to be home to around 20 office staff, as a mosque with regular prayer meetings attracting around 15 people and Friday prayers attracting 140 people. The applicant claimed, both at the meeting and in the planning documents, most people would walk, cycle or use public transport to get to the mosque but neighbours and councillors were unconvinced by the claims.

Arthur Hookway, chairman of the Worcester Park Residents’ Association, addressed councillors at the meeting. He said: “I personally delivered a petition with more than 3,700 signatures to the council. I feel I can say I’ve been in touch with many local residents and I’ve found less than a handful in support of this. Can you afford to get this wrong? If you do, those of us who live and drive on the affected roads will never recover.”

Other speakers against the proposal included ward councillors Stephen Fenwick and Stuart Gordon Bulloch as well as the chairman of Worcester Park Traders.

Speakers in favour of the proposal were repeatedly heckled including by one woman who appeared to be crying. It led committee’s chairman Councillor John Leach to tell members of the audience they did their case “no good” by calling out.

Having heard the arguments councillor unanimously voted against giving planning permission. The ruling was greeted with loud cheers.

Surrey Comet, 4 December 2012

Update:  For further evidence of the role of the far right in mobilising opposition to the mosque, see this report from a member of the English Defence League, who boasts:

“I personally fly posted the town and the train station to increase awareness to the residents who were not aware of this by the local blogs. I also lobbied the local councillors to see how they would be voting and remind them that they represent us. I even lobbied the opposition party (the Tories) to ensure they were present to remind the councillors that there were others who could do their job.

“Thankfully last night went well. There was a massive turnout, maybe as many as 500 and with the exception if [sic] a small number all in support of opposing the mosque. Had there not been such a large and vocal turn out there would have been a serious risk that the liberals would have buckled to Islamic pressure and grabbed [sic] the planning application.”