Sunderland mosque plan is handed to council chiefs

The site of the proposed mosque
The site of the proposed mosque
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A CONTROVERSIAL planning application has been submitted to build a mosque in Sunderland.

Some Millfield residents protested earlier this year when the city council agreed to sell a disused vehicle storage depot to an Islamic community group looking for a new place of worship.

Neighbours are concerned about parking problems and noise late at night.

Now an official application has been made to convert the depot into a place of worship, community and education centre with a new frontage and two domed columns, and 20 parking spaces.

The proposals include separate male and female entrances and prayer areas, a library and social services facilities, washing and toilet facilities and a body preparation area.

Lib Dem ward councillor Paul Dixon said residents had genuine planning concerns, but feared their protests would be hijacked by right-wing extremist groups.

He said: “I think there will be hell on when people find out a planning application has gone in.

“We only found out by chance the council were planning to sell the site.

“We were told there wouldn’t be an application until at least the new year, and people wouldn’t notice any changes to the building.

“Now they’ve applied to knock the front down, built parapet walls and put a tower on each corner.

“The council has let residents down from start to finish on this one. I’m disgusted with them.”

The application was submitted by Mazhar Mahmood on behalf of the Pakistani Islamic Centre. No one there could be contacted for comment.

If approved, the mosque is expected to replace an Islamic centre which has been operating for years in the same street without planning permission.

Coun Dixon said the council should have been more open with residents, and now fears the English Defence League (EDL) aims to capitalise on public anger to grow support in the area.

The EDL already has a leaflet drawn-up and a Facebook group calling for a halt to the mosque plans.

Coun Dixon said Millfield was a very diverse area with people from many religious and ethnic backgrounds – including other branches of the Islamic faith – and a backlash over the new mosque proposals could cause problems.

Pauline Featonby-Warren, chairman of the Millfield Residents’ Association and a member of the Filipino Christian faith group in the area, said the mosque was too big and there were genuine concerns about parking and noise.

There was also disquiet that the council had not sold the site on the open market.

She added: “I also think it could look very out of place – next to an Aldi and a row of wee cottages.”

Coin Clark, head of planning and property at the council, said: “This application will be considered on its merits having regard to national and local planning policies, and other material considerations.

“As part of the statutory requirements for this type of application, nearby residents have been consulted by letter, whilst site and press notices will appear in due course.

“Interested parties have the opportunity to make representations through the planning process.”

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