CONTROVERSIAL plans to sell land to build a mosque have been given the go-ahead.
It was approved despite placard-waving protesters packing Sunderland Civic Centre’s public gallery to oppose proposals for the former St Mark’s Garage, in St Mark’s Road, Millfield.
A fierce row blew up after it was revealed the land was to be sold by Sunderland City Council to the Pakistani Islamic and Community Centre, which wants to transform it into a mosque and meeting place.
Residents fear a mosque would have a major impact on traffic, parking and noise in the area.
And they hit out at the council for failing to put the site on the open market.
At yesterday’s council meeting, a letter written on behalf of the residents urged councillors to delay their decision until they had been consulted properly.
But leader Paul Watson said local people will be able to have their say when – or if – a planning application to build a mosque is submitted.
Coun Watson said: “We understand the strength of feeling and we, as a Cabinet, are only here to try our best to do what the public and community want.
“The dilemma we have is that we have one bona fide community group who have come to us and asked us about the availability of premises.
“In line with our policy, if offered the market value then we would agree to sell.
“To then say we won’t sell because of who they are would not be appropriate for us to do.”
Members voted unanimously to push ahead with the sale of the land for an undisclosed sum.
After the meeting, protester Kevin Barlow, 47, of Earl Street, said: “I don’t feel it’s justifiable to build a mosque in a residential area.
“It will cause massive car parking problems, not to mention the noise that will come from it.
“I have been on holiday to Muslim countries and they get up as early as 4am to pray.
“I’ve nothing against them praying but they shouldn’t be taking up parking spaces.”
Robert Russell, 68, of Harlow Street, added: “This meeting was a waste of time.
“They had their minds made up before they even went in there.
“Millfield is supposed to be an enterprise zone for light engineering. Where does a mosque come into that?”
A small group of people gathered at the meeting to oppose the protesters’ views.