Thursday, 20 March 2014

Ismailis Not Going Ahead With Tavern Development

The Ismaili Community have this week decided not to continue with their proposal to develop the Old Worcester Park Tavern as an Ismaili Community Centre. After careful consideration of all the factors regarding the development and the area, they have chosen to look for an alternative site instead.

They have released the following update which explains their decision in more detail. Some blog readers may receive a copy of this through their letter box as well.

There have been mixed views in the community about this plan. John Clare, who lives quite close to the site and would have been directly affected by any change in the traffic flow started a petition against the proposal. His original intention was to gather at least 500 signatures would would have resulted in the proposal having to be heard by a full planning committee at Kingston Council. He did not have an electronic version of the petition (hence there was no link to it on the blog) and he was only gathering signatures through door-knocking (with help from local campaigners Cllr David Fraser, Kevin Davis and Mary Clark). He however still managed to gather around 1,700 signatures.

Cllr David Fraser told the blog:
"I am pleased to hear that the Worcester Park Tavern will not be changed to an Islamic centre as this would have caused extra traffic on the Worcester Park High Street and affecting the Malden Road along to the fountain. I believe the decision not to proceed may have resulted from the 1,700 people who signed the petition, and mainly due to the hard work and long hours that John Clare put in on behalf of the majority of residents and with my input along with my colleagues Kevin Davis and Mary Clark. Local residents already experience a heavy volume of traffic without more being added; I consider this a good outcome."
John Clare who started the petition told the blog that it should be noted that he started the petition because of the location and traffic that the proposal would have produced. Now that that proposal is not going ahead, John has said he will shred the petition as it contains the personal data of many people. It has done its job.

I personally felt the Ismailis were a very reasonable about the whole thing. It is worth pointing out again they they are a completely different group to the ones (still) trying to convert the Old Bank Chambers in Green Lane into Mosque. Unlike the Green Lane Group who hid their intentions for years and have not listened to the wishes of the community, the Ismailis were up front from the beginning. They chose to hold a thorough consultation with the community and let everyone know what they wanted to do before they even considered the planning application for the council. Now, having decided to pull out, they have demonstrated to us all that they have indeed listened to the community, and therefore that they had always intended to do so. I wish them well in their endeavour to find more suitable premises.

As I wrote in my initial thoughts after their consultation, the ismailis have a reputation for being moderate, professional, educated and generous. I have seen nothing since then to suggest otherwise. There was some dispute about the specifics of the plans presented to the community, particularly in comments here on the blog. There was much concern about the impact of a development like this on the local infrastructure and many people just wanted to see the site used for something else.

It remains to be seen now what will become of the old building. I still like to idea of the site becoming a hotel. With the X26 bus coming straight from Heathrow and the station opposite (hopefully including Crossrail 2) this would make an excellent site for people to stay in a pleasant area not too close to the city but with unsurpassed transport links directly to the centre. Hotel guests would boost the local economy while adding few cars to the local roads. We shall see...