‘Mega mosque’ group fights closure bid

AN Islamic group planning a so-called “mega mosque” in West Ham today launched a challenge against an order that would see their current base shut down.

Leaders of Tablighi Jamaat are bidding to overturn an enforcement notice served on their Riverine Centre in Canning Road by Newham Council last February.

But, opening a public inquiry at Newham Town Hall this morning, planning inspector Graham Dudley said his ultimate decision would have no bearing on the organisation’s plans for a 12,000-capacity Abbey Mills Mosque, which they want to build on the same site.

Tablighi Jamaat’s barrister, Russell Harris QC, revealed a planning application for the controversial, bigger centre could be submitted within the next 12 months.

The current inquiry centres around a planning grant for the temporary Riverine Mosque, which was issued in 2001.

But the group continued to use the site when that permit expired in 2006.

Newham Council want to see the site shut down over concerns about traffic levels, land contamination and the visual impact of the temporary buildings.

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But Mr Harris said upholding the enforcement notice would mean the loss of “an important point of focus for the Muslim community.”

Also represented at the hearings - and backing the authority’s position - is Newham Concern, a group headed by Christian People’s Alliance politician and former Newham Council opposition leader Alan Craig.

The inquiry is continuing and is set to last around eight days.