The proposed Muslim Community centre in Hook has been rejected, as protests form the local neighbours regarding traffic and parking issues was supported by the council.
The councillors, sitting in the development control committee, decided that Argent House, an empty industrial building in Hook Rise South, Hook, is not suitable to host the social activities of the local Ismaili Muslim Community.
Though being disappointed by the verdict, Ismaili’s community members were not sure if they would appeal the decision: “Maybe we’re batting on the wrong wicket, so we might need to find another one,” said a representative who preferred not to be named.
“We don’t really want to stay in an area where the local community doesn’t want us. We want to be in a community where the neighbours can get on with us, and where we can get on with them,” concluded the representative.
Local campaigners collected 232 signatures to oppose the plan, alleging that traffic, parking and the peace of the neighbourhood would have been badly affected by the planned Muslim Community centre.
The Jamatkhana Ismail community, counting of 600 members around Kingston, was looking for a venue to hold its social activities such as yoga and dance classes, youth club seminars, lectures and workshops.
The expected daily attendance was of 200 people while 48-car parking slots would have been made disposable according to the rejected plan.
The centre was to provide work for 20 full-time staff.
One of the councillors’ main concerns, while assessing the plan, was that turning Argent house, which is currently registered as an industrial site, into a community centre could potentially result in job losses and damage new business opportunities.
The rejection was adopted with seven votes to one as councillor Ken Smith abstained from voting saying that not enough information was provided to allow a correct evaluation regarding the building that has been empty for almost a decade.
A member of the Ismaili community said they applied as they thought they would make good use of an empty building.
“We only went for the site because we knew it was going to be vacant, the company working there now are moving to another location and they [the council] know this, it was too big for the company, so they will move out, that’s the reason we applied,” he said.
The Jamatkhana community had proposed a one-year trial deal to the council, an offer which also was rejected, despite that a Christian community had seen a similar trial deal just on the other side of theA3 accepted earlier this year.
Arif Pradhan, a member of the Islamic community, spoke at last week’s meeting arguing for same treatment to be given to them.
“We would like to prove how the arrangements will work; if you don’t like it, we’ll go,” he said.
The council also rejected this arrangement.