Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Mosque Appeal Allowed

It is with a sombre heart that I must report to those who have not yet heard the news that our efforts have not been successful in opposing the Mosque application at 2-4 Green Lane.

The planning inspectorate's decision to allow the 4 year trial application has been emailed out to many people this morning. The original application for 140 people (not 4 year trail) was rejected but the second appeal was allowed.

Many people will be reading the news in disbelief, wondering what in reality we can really do next. I know people who have said that this will be the final straw as far as traffic and parking in the area is concerned. Indeed, problems with Parking and traffic in the area is the very reason Andrew, who ran the blog up until March 2013 when I took it over, left Worcester Park.

In part of his conclusion the planning inspector wrote:
"Whilst the smaller scheme for 95 worshippers would also have an adverse effect, I do not consider that that effect would be severe. On balance the benefits of proposal B [4-year trial limited to 95 worshippers] would outweigh the harm, and temporary permission for a period of four years would enable the effect of the use on traffic movement and highway safety to be fully assessed."
You can read the actual decision documentation here.

While it is undoubtedly clutching at straws, it is the four year trial and so there are some fairly stringent conditions that have been placed on the application. My position is that we must hold the view that if those conditions are breached, then the trial has failed and the applicants will have to move to a more suitable location on or before the end of the 4 year period.

As part of those conditions the applicant is now obliged to submit a travel plan and a management plan before they can begin using the building as a Mosque. These must be approved in writing by the council.

We must navigate very carefully now - for the sake of our community. While I still hold the view that this is an absurd application for that site, we are where we are and we must not let it rip our community apart. We need to accept that the law is the law and that while we have done everything in our power to stop this happening - it has happened. Above all we must not vent our anger through acts unbecoming of our decent community.

Yet we should continue to work within the law to bring about a better resolution than this one. Over the next four years it must be demonstrated that all conditions imposed by the application are stuck to fully. At the end of that time the question will be asked, "What evidence is there to show that the conditions have been breached."

If the conditions are breeched, then we will expect the council to produce documented evidence. If they cannot present the evidence then there will be no case as it will have to be assumed that no conditions have been breached. So we must ensure our local councillors push to make it the highest priority for Worcester Park that any breeches of the conditions are noted and documented by the council. This will have the twin effect of hopefully minimising the nuisance caused to the local community by this application, and if as many suspect, the Mosque is not able to operate in the way the planning application claims it will, then planning law will be able to be used to ensure a more suitable spot is found after that time.

If there has ever been an issue that has brought the entire local community together it has been this one - united in our opposition to this planning application. I believe that even though we have been unsuccessful, we should be proud of how we came together as a community. We did not let the pressure off, even after several years when many other local communities would have folded and interest waned. We had more people at the final day of the appeal than at the first day! (I understand that usually with these things many people attend the first day and by the time the final day comes, few people have the inclination to bother to go.)

I don't know that there is more we could have done. Given the limitations in planning law (of which I am not knowledgeable), I can't think of a single thing more we could have done as a community or individually to cause the entire appeal to be thrown out.

What  are your reactions to this dear reader? Over to you...