Islamic sect refused permission to build mega-mosque with four times the capacity of St Paul’s Cathedral
A missionary Islamic sect has been denied permission to build a controversial mega-mosque with four times the capacity of St Paul’s Cathedral, it was announced today.
The Tablighi Jamaat group saw its plan to build the 9,000-capacity venue in West Ham, east London, rejected by members of Newham Borough Council at a planning meeting.
If permission had been granted, Abbey Mills Mosque – also known as the Riverine Centre – would have become one of the biggest Islamic centres in Britain and western Europe.
Tablighi Jamaat currently uses part of the six-hectares Abbey Mills site to house the London Markaz, also referred to as Masjid-e-Ilyas, a temporary hub which can host up to 2,500 people.
But councillors heeded recommendations from the council’s officers to reject expansion on the former industrial land, amid strong opposition and concern about the project.
Following tonight’s meeting, Conor McAuley, Newham Council’s executive member for regeneration and strategic planning, said: ‘The proposed mosque building is too big and would have an impact on important historic buildings nearby.’
He said councillors had considered the application ‘at length and with great care’ before rejecting it.
‘The council undertook a rigorous and extensive consultation about the proposals in the run-up to this decision,’ he added.
‘Our planning policies promote the development of the Abbey Mills site for a mix of residential, employment and community uses, to help create a new local centre near West Ham station and regenerate the area.
‘The creation of new homes and jobs are a priority for Newham Council.
‘It is not considered that this application is consistent with these policies.’
Standing in the shadow of the 2012 Olympic Park in Stratford, the new mosque would have included a prayer hall for up to 7,440 men and a separate facility for almost 2,000 women.
Since Tablighi Jamaat moved into the Abbey Mills site in 1996, it has become embroiled in a series of application and enforcement disputes with Newham Council.
The group, which traces its origins to India in the late 1920s, has been accused in the past of radicalising young Muslims.
In 2008, Newham councillor and Christian Choice candidate for mayor of London, Alan Craig, complained he had been prevented by the BBC from describing it as a ‘separatist Islamic group’ in a party political broadcast.
The group itself has said it ‘refrains from political or controversial activities and stands for democracy and freedom’ and that it ‘promotes social and religious integration’.
According to reports, the new mosque would have taken up three times the floor space of St Paul’s Cathedral and matched the biggest Islamic building in Britain – Baitul Futuh in Morden, south London – for size.