Local protest set to win battle against Muslim Centre

A proposed Muslim community centre in Hook faces rejection after a 232-strong petition was launched against it by local residents.

Locals collected 232 signatures to stop the conversion of Argent House, an empty industrial building in Hook Rise South, Hook, into a centre for the local Ismaili Muslim Community, as residents argued traffic and safety problems would become main concerns. 

“I live 100 yards away from the centre and the road is absolute murder already, an ambulance or fire service would never get down there. You just know people will park across my drive, I wouldn’t get out of my house,” local resident Geoff Garner, 39, said after the meeting. 

“I am concerned with the type of people that might be attending there as well, when you hear about fundamentalism and so on, one of my concerns is that you wouldn’t necessary know what’s going on inside, that would worry me,” Mr Garner said. 

According to the application plan submitted to the council 48 parking slots will be made disposable for community use, while up to 300 people would be attending the centre’s activities. 

Kingston Ismaili community numbers around 600 people. 

Joseph Sheppard, from the Crofts Residents’ Association said: “There is not enough space for the vehicles going there: 48 spaces doesn’t go into 300.” 

“Our area is becoming a rat run; we are already used by a lot of people working in the industrial estate, we got small children we got animals, 300 people arriving and leaving at some point during the day is a great concern to us,” said Helen O’Dylan, a local resident. 

Arif Pradhan, a member of the Islamic community who spoke at the meeting, appealed for a one-year-trial period opportunity to be conceded, to demonstrate to the local residents they are a caring community wishing to be good neighbours.

“We would like to prove how the arrangements will work; if you don’t like it, we’ll go,” he said. 

Councillor Sharon Hartley said it would be difficult for the council to agree to a temporary agreement and also emphasised on the traffic and parking issues.

“There is pressure from Government not to change industrial sites and we do already have issues with this road. It is not that we don’t want to support the local community,” the councillor said. 

Resident Geoff Garner was not happy with the temporary solution either and labelled it as ‘crazy’. 

“It is just never going to happen, once it’s done it’s very difficult to get it stopped, once they’re in it’s hard to get someone out, it’s much easier to stop them getting there in the first place,” he said.  

Councillor Shiraz Mirza, while being conscious of the traffic and parking issues, said that a solution has to be found and that local opposition to the plan is partially due to a wrong perception of the Ismaili Community.

“They have to be somewhere. A lot of the local perception is that this is like a mosque but it is not. This is the most educated community among the Muslims,” he said.

The centre is to host numerous activities such as yoga and dance classes, youth club seminars, lectures and workshops, and 20 full-time staff would be employed.

The Ismaili community will lose its current temporary premises this summer. 

The Development Control Committee will make the final decision on the application Thursday 22nd of March.

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