Monday, 12 November 2012

Worcester Park Mosque - Revised Plans Submitted

The public consultation on plans to convert Bank Chambers in Green Lane into a mosque has been reopened after the applicants submitted a additional information and answers to questions raised by their planning application to Sutton Council.

The applicants claim that Sutton Council planning officers "confirmed that, in their initial view, there are 

no objections in principle to the proposed change of use subject to providing satisfactory additional information" to a series of concerns and questions raised by the Council.

The supplementary information is available on Sutton Council's planning portal. Residents now have until 29th November 2012 to comment on the proposed mosque.

Below is a summary of key answers submitted in response to questions raised by Sutton Council planning officers. For full responses to these questions and for other supporting information, visit the planning portal.

A full timetable for prayers explaining the type of prayers and how long it will take to perform each prayer on a daily basis; 

Islamic prayer times are traditionally set according to the movement of the sun, not by the clock. The "times" (according to the clock) for these prayers change from day to day and are dependent on location. On average, to perform a prayer (from concregation to dispersal) takes about 20-40 minutes.

Information about Friday prayers and festivals and how this would impact on visitors to the site and hours of use.  For instance, when is it likely that the mosque will be at full capacity;

It is likely that the mosque will only accommodate its full capacity at Friday afternoon prayers, at 2 festival prayers and on the first five nights and the 26th night of Ramadan.  A Management Strategy each year will be in place and performing these prayers would not have any adverse impact either on the surrounding properties or passers by.

Information about whether the proposed mosque would provide educational facilities, training and other community events in the premises; 

It is proposed that the building will not only be used as a mosque but it will also be used  for religious educational purposes. The proposals would provide community facilities  for Muslims who currently live and work  locally. School visits to the mosque may also be permitted three times in a year. These visits are useful as they help teach children about other religions.

Information about the type of branch of Islam (i.e. Sunni, Shiya) the worshipers of   the proposed mosque will follow.  How this compares to the four other mosques in the area and whether this would have implications on the proposed catchment area; For instance, would worshippers come from outside the catchment area and possible other mosques due to the branch of Islam.   

All four local mosques (Morden, Sutton, Epsom & Ewell and Kingston) follow the ‘Ahle Sunnat Wal Jama'at’ branch of Islam, and the proposed mosque will follow the same branch.  It is considered that the catchment area for the proposed mosque would be approximately 2.0 km, which approximately corresponds with half the distance to the closest mosque in each direction.

A Management Strategy is required to  demonstrate how the applicant intends to manage visitors to and from the site.  For instance, how will people disperse from the site to avoid people unnecessarily congregating /waiting on the highway; 

A caretaker employed at the site will be tasked with the managerial role of overseeing the operation of the mosque at prayer times. His role will involve assisting people into the mosque quickly and without disruption before prayers and helping to ensure the site is vacated reasonably promptly after prayers have finished.  It is expected that only 10-15 people will attend at any one prayer on a daily basis; therefore one caretaker would be adequate. All worshippers will not vacate the building at one time, because the time, taken to perform the prayer will vary from person to person.  

The mosque committee will employ two people who will aid the caretaker during Friday noon prayer and for festival prayers when attendances are expected to be higher. The extra two people will be based outside the mosque, on the forcourt, to ensure people disperse from the site and avoid unnecessary congregation/waiting on the highway.

Explanation as to how the proposal would ensure that local residents are not unacceptably impacted by increased noise or disturbance.  

Muslim prayers are performed quietly and so there is very little external noise impact. Generally, concerns about possible external noise arise from the possibility of the call to prayer (called ‘Athan’) being externally broadcast by loudspeakers.  This scheme does not include any such plan and  there will be no externally broadcasting loudspeakers. 

The low attendance on a daily basis also means that noise disturbance from worshippers congregating and dispersing is likely to be low as well.  The mosque committee will instruct a caretaker to ensure that prayers are performed quietly. In addition, the mosque will adopt a ‘no children under 6 years old’  policy, which will help keep noise to a minimum (such an age restriction in common in mosques).

An additional transport report is required including the car parking survey at Waitrose Car Park on a Friday to demonstrate that the proposed change of use will not affect town centre parking spaces on Fridays;

A car parking survey was carried out on Friday 31st August between 11:30 and 14:30 at both the town centre car park at Waitrose and the railway station car park.  Based on the level of parking available within those local car parks, as well as the further capacity available within the surrounding local highway network, the statement concludes that there would be adequate parking available for any vehicle use associated with the proposed mosque during a typical weekday and that adequate spare parking capacity would remain demonstrating that In a bid to counter criticism that the development will bring additional traffic to the already-congested area, the applicants are proposing to supply additional cycling racking on Green Lane, for storage of up to 16 bicycles.