Friday, 24 May 2013

New Worcester Park Mosque Plans Submitted


A new planning application to convert the vacant old Bank Chambers in Green Lane into a Mosque, has been submitted to Sutton Council .

The planning application (A2013/67455 - available here) was received by Sutton Council on the 10th of May regarding: 2 - 4 Green Lane, Worcester Park, KT4 8AD. The application is for: Use of premises as a place of worship (Class D1) for a temporary period of four years involving replacement of garage door with window and provision of cycle facilities.

This new application description is very similar to the original application (A2012/66050 - available here) and both the applicant and the agent look to be the same on this new one as the original. The main difference between the two applications is that this new one is asking for permission “for a temporary period of four years”.

In March 2010, The Worcester Park Blog exclusively revealed that a local group was seeking to create a 'Worcester Park Islamic Community Centre' in the Bank Chambers premises next to Kingfish, although no planning application had been submitted at the time.

When contacted by the Blog in 2010, a spokesman for the organisation denied that they were proposing a mosque at the site, and their website which called for 'Muslims locally and internationally to donate generously towards building the House of Allah' in Worcester Park was quickly removed.

After a two year wait, the first planning application was submitted on the 8th of June last year. The consultation ran from the 5th of July and was extended until the 30th of November due to the huge public concern about the plans and the additional congestion that would be caused at an already far too congested site.

Traffic congestion in Green Lane has been a major issue for a long time anyway. It can reportedly take over twenty minutes to get from the bottom of Green Lane to Central Road and if there is an accident between Worcester Park and the A3 or even on the A3 it can take very much longer. It is apparently not uncommon to see road rage and 'disrespectful driving' in Green Lane in such situations.

During the consultation period 473 letters objecting to the application were received by the council as well as petitions run by the Worcester Park Residents' Association, local Conservatives and local residents, containing a total of 4126 signatures against the plans. 150 letters supporting the proposal were also received by the Council however only 17% of those supporting letters came from the KT4 postcode area while 93% of the letters objecting were from the KT4 area.

The case was heard by Sutton’s  Development Control Committee on the 3rd of December and after numerous presentations, some heated debate and many impassioned pleas, the committee unanimously refused the application, upholding the council officer’s recommendations. The application was turned down on the grounds of “insufficient parking provision in an area” and the “danger and inconvenience to all users of the public highway” that it would cause.

Since then a few people have been found to be using the building as a Mosque without the necessary permission requiring a Planning Contravention Notice to be served and it has also seen squatters move into the building and back out again.

It seems the applicant wants to have another try at converting it to a Mosque. Local residents have until 21st June 2013 to submit their comments, support or objections to this new Worcester Park mosque application.

Update Sunday 26th May (around 12:30am)

There is now more information available with the application. Thanks VR for spotting it. As VR points out below, the application is specifying that it will be a 'Green Mosque' and that worshippers will walk, use bicycles and public transport. The additional documents can be seen here. The most relevant ones are the Planning Design & Access Statement, the Transport Statement and the Travel Plan. Also the Appendices may be of interest too. Please remember these document are subject to copyright. We can only use them "for consultation purposes, to compare current applications with previous schemes and to check whether developments have been completed in accordance with approved plans".

Interestingly according to the Transport Statement (paragraph 1.2.4) they "will prohibit journeys by car". While I am sure they can and may very well encourage people not to use their cars, I'm not sure there is any legal basis by which they can "prohibit journeys by car". No doubt this will be explored more deeply as the next few weeks and months unfold...

Update Sunday 26th May (around 4:30pm)

Many readers have asked how to object to this application. If you want to object to it you can do so here.

You can also send a letter to:
Planning Division,
24 Denmark Road,
Carshalton,
Surrey
SM5 2JG,

You can also send an email to: developmentcontrol@sutton.gov.uk

Please remember that any correspondence regarding objections, comments or support is not confidential and can be read by the public, including the applicant and other people affected one way or the other. So don't write something you wouldn't want other people to know you wrote.

Update Monday 27th May (around 4:45pm)

A very sensible set of suggestions has just been submitted as a comment and I hope the anonymous author doesn't mind if I copy them here:

First, if you submitted an objection first time around, please do so again, since this is being treated as a new planning application. The previous letters of opposition almost certainly won't count in the numbers of objections.

Second, if you still have the original objection in your 'sent items', it shouldn't take long to update. If you really can't spare any time reading the amended application and amending your previous version, simply change the date on the last one and send in the same objection again. (After all, the amended application is barely changed and the central objections will be barely changed - if at all).

Third, you should receive confirmation that your objection has been received. If you don't, send an email asking for confirmation, otherwise, there is a risk that it won't ever get read or count in the numbers.

Finally, last time around, at the planning meeting, you may recall the Worcester Park Residents Association (WPRA) submitted an impressive case, objecting to the application and they can be contacted via WP library. Please give them your support.

Update Wednesday 29th May (around 3:45pm)

Councillor Stewart Gordon Bullock has de-delegated the application which means it will now have to be heard by the full Development Control (planning) Committee. It can not now be just approved by Council officers in Sutton's planning department.