How site allocation led to mosque rejection

The loss of a strategic site allocated for mixed-use development including housing weighed heavily in the communities secretary's decision to refuse permission for a 9,000-capacity 'mega mosque' in east London.

Communities secretary Greg Clark
Communities secretary Greg Clark

The long planning process over a proposed "mega mosque" on a brownfield site in east London may not be over, with the applicant considering appealing a decision to refuse permission by communities secretary Greg Clark. He dismissed an appeal by Solad Mohammed - on behalf of the trustees of Anjuman-e-Islahul-Muslimeen - against the London Borough of Newham's 2012 decision to refuse outline consent for the mosque at the Riverine Centre, Canning Road.

The outline application proposed a 9,000-capacity mosque and ancillary facilities, including accommodation, a library and dining hall. It would also have seen sports facilities, landscape upgrades and parking. Speaking to Planning after the decision, the applicant's planning consultant Peter Weatherhead said: "The clients are disappointed with the decision and are reviewing all of their options."

Clark's decision was in line with an inspector's report, which concluded that there was not sufficient justification to allow the scheme on a site allocated for mixed use - including housing - in the borough's development plan. His decision letter said "the loss of a strategic site for its planned purpose is a very strong objection which carries substantial weight. The secretary of state also considers that there is no case made out for a development of this size for this particular limited mix of uses."

Clark also went further than the inspector had recommended in refusing a temporary application - which would have been the third granted - to let the mosque continue operating on site for two more years. Clark said he agreed with the council's conclusion that "a further temporary permission would be likely to further defer the aspirations for the site as set out in the development plan".

The proposed scheme had been redesigned after initial plans for a 70,000-capacity mosque unveiled in 2005 provoked widespread local opposition. These plans were never formally submitted as a planning application. However, the council approved two consecutive temporary permissions allowing the site to operate as a mosque.

The borough welcomed Clark's decision, saying the trustees of Anjuman-e-Islahul-Muslimeen had not fulfilled commitments made in a 2001 memorandum of understanding to bring forward a mix of uses on the site. In a statement, it said: "This application not only failed to meet guidelines for development set out by Newham, they also failed to meet eight out of nine planning criteria set out in the mayor of London's London Plan."

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