Proposals lodged for expanded Forest Gate community centre

An Islamic community centre based in the former Odeon cinema in Forest Gate is planning to expand the premises.

The Adara Minhaj Ul-Koran Muslim centre, has been operating from behind the historic 1930s facade in Romford Road for the last 16 years.

Leaders have now applied for permission to demolish part of the building and create a new part five-storey, part six-storey complex.

If planning permission is granted by Newham Council, it will contain a gym, indoor recreation facilities, education rooms, study areas, two new prayer halls and eight residential apartments.

Minhaj Ul-Koran is the UK branch of the Islamic education and welfare organisation. It describes itself as peaceful and makes clear that’s community leaders denounce all forms of violence.

A statement submitted with the application revealed that the centre is struggling to cope with the 200 visitors it receives every Friday.

“The internal arrangement of the old cinema is very restrictive,” the statement outlined.

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“The upper tiers of raked seating are still in place and are of little practical use.

It went on: “This also means that other activities cannot take place at the same time as each other, thus restricting the timetable and therefore the level of services the centre can provide.”

Visitors are also exposed to an uninsulated asbestos roof at the back of the cinema, according to the statement.

The recognisable Odeon frontage will be kept under the proposals, while a new basement providing 17 car-parking spaces, is also planned.

Previous applications made for the site in 2009, were withdrawn following concerns raised by Newham Council planning officers.

Clive Williams, from Williams Architects, the firm behind the proposals, said the revamped centre would benefit “the whole community.”

He said: “The idea is to keep the frontage and restore all that back to its former glory. It is a large centre and the idea is to have mixture of retail and community space at the back.

“It is for the wider community.”

A decision on the application is expected by the end of July this year.