South Woodford mosque imam - Councillors are “playing politics” over planning application
07:00 03 July 2014
The imam at South Woodford Mosque has accused councillors of worrying about votes after their decision to reject redevelopment plans for the second time in seven months this week.
Dr Mohammed Fahim added the Qu’rani Murkaz Trust, which runs the community centre, would appeal the Redbridge Council planning committee’s decision through the planning inspectorate.
Four out of six councillors sitting on the Redbridge Council planning committee rejected the latest plans on Tuesday at Sir James Hawkey Hall in Broomfield Road, Woodford Green.
Two police officers were asked to attend the meeting in light of previous tensions between groups of residents and representatives of the South Woodford mosque.
Speaking to the Recorder, Dr Fahim, who had addressed the meeting, dismissed the committee’s decision and said it is the “planning officers who decide” on applications.
He said: “The councillors are not trained planners – they are lay persons like myself or you.
“We will appeal the decision it is as simple as that. The planning inspectorate has nothing to do with politics, councillors are worried about votes.”
Cllr Gwyneth Deakins, a planning committee member, believed the “public would lose confidence” in planning decisions if politicians were not a part of the process.
She said: “It is extremely important that the public are locally represented and have an input in planning decisions otherwise they would lose confidence in the planning system.
“If Dr Fahim is suggesting these planning decisions should be made behind closed doors then I profoundly disagree.”
Grace Symonds, of Mulberry Way, expressed her and other residents’ delight at the planning committee’s decision.
She said: “Speaking for the residents as a whole we are delighted. It clearly shows that the councillors are listening to their constituents.
“We are grateful that they could see through the hype.”
However, Miss Symonds admitted she expected the QM Trust to appeal the decision.
“The reality is we will be hearing from them again in six months,” she added.
Conservative councillor Robin Turbefield voted against the plans citing a failure to reduce the building’s height – an issue which caused one resident to suggest the new design was “in your face”.
Cllr Turbefield said: “They have only taken a little bit off the height and the massing – it is a big, big building.
“I think that building is far too big for that environment. It is a building that is that one bit too big.”