A long-awaited decision on proposals for a new mosque in Windsor is due to be reached on October 21.
To the dismay of Windsor’s Muslim community, the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead has recommended that the planning application for the mosque be refused.
However, there is still hope that the plans will get the go-ahead if a majority of councillors vote in favour at the imminent planning meeting.
The area’s small Muslim community, which comprises around 30 families, currently has no dedicated place of worship and holds events like jumu’ah prayers in rented community halls.
A decision on the proposed new mosque should have been reached six months ago but was delayed by the coronavirus crisis.
Justifying their refusal the Royal Borough said:
- The proposed new mosque would be an inappropriate development in the Green Belt.
- It would not be in keeping with surrounding land uses and would cause harm to the character of the area, amenities of neighbouring properties, as well as the local highways network.
“In the absence of robust controls, the proposed use and its future growth could lead to vehicles being displaced onto the public highway or neighbouring roads detrimental to highway safety and the free flow of traffic on an already busy Maidenhead Road,” planning officer Haydon Richardson said.
“The applicants have submitted no robust plans which detail how growth will be safely managed in a way that does not impact adversely on the highway network. Furthermore, harm would be caused to pedestrians as cyclists are forced to use public footpaths to access the site, cyclists using the road would also be at an increased risk of collisions with vehicles as there are no cycle paths to the site.
“Due to the increase in people and vehicle movements at the site, the proposed development is likely to cause a significant increase in noise pollution in this quiet residential location.”
Support and objections
Windsor Muslim Association has submitted proposals to transform a three bedroom, two-storey detached house near the River Thames into a place of worship and community centre.
WMA says it aims to “provide religious, social, economic, educational and welfare services to everyone,” and to “provide a comprehensive programme for the community to create model Muslim citizens who understand their Islamic duties and obligations to create a constructive dialogue with the wider communities.”
But the Borough’s recommendation came after many comments supporting and objecting to the proposal were submitted to the council.
A petition in support of the application was submitted with 108 signatories. It stated that the proposed development would include no external changes to the building and therefore would have no impact on the character and appearance of the area, or on the flood plain.
It added that only a few people would drive to the mosque as it would be predominantly a walk and cycle centre. Prayer calls would be internal, and noise from vehicle movements would be limited due to the reduction of onsite parking.
Other supportive comments included:
“The Windsor Muslim Association represents around 30 plus Muslim families in this area and the site could accommodate the society’s needs.”
“It is a human right that British citizens should have the freedom to pray in their country.”
“Approval of the proposed development would give the community more faith in its representative administration and would show that RBWM is leading the way against Islamophobia and bigotry.”
“The Muslim community pay taxes and support the government as well as Windsor’s economy.”
A number of local churches also supported the proposal.
On the other hand, many comments were also received objecting to the proposed new mosque such as:
“The proposal will cause traffic build up and road congestion.”
“It is unlikely that people will walk or cycle to the site due to its unfavourable location. The proposal would therefore cause harm to the highways network.”
“Call for prayers start at the sunset and happen throughout the day, 5 or 6 times a day. The proposal will lead to excessive noise disturbance for neighbouring dwellings. Further noise impact would be caused by people movements.”
“The place of worship would be out of keeping with the character of the surrounding area, which is residential.”
The proposal was also objected to by a number of local residents’ associations as well as Bray Parish Council.
Emily Temple, acting on behalf of Windsor Muslim Association, has written to the Royal Borough’s Haydon Richardson calling the refusal “farcical.”
She said: “Due weight has not been applied for the need of the Windsor Muslim Association to utilise the premises, and the fundamental human right of Muslims to practice their religion in a safe, convenient and permanent location.
“Windsor does not currently benefit from any such facility or religious building, and extensive information has already been provided over the WMA’s attempts to secure a permanent place of worship in other locations; all of which have failed or been deemed unsuitable. The site in question is available and suitable for the needs of the WMA.
“The Council’s assessment suggest that no evidence has been provided as to whether the 30 families of the WMA are RBWM residents and therefore there is still a question as to whether the facility will benefit the local or wider community. This, quite frankly, is a farcical assessment and, whilst the families in question are locally based in Windsor, this should in no way be a determining factor as to whether such a place or worship would be justified.
“The Muslim community of Windsor have expressed large support for the proposals, and it is a fundamental human right for members of this community to be able to have a place of worship. The location is available and practical, whilst other site locations/options have all been exhausted.”
The council meeting on October 21 will be broadcast live on YouTube. You can watch it here.