Controversial Hainault community centre gets final green light

The trustee of a Muslim association taking over a working men’s club says the new centre will be a triumph of community cohesion.

But they insisted it may not be used as place of worship, and opening hours will be limited to 8am-10pm or 11pm every day apart from Sunday, which will be 10am-10pm.

Hainault and Chigwell Muslim Association is now in final talks over the 25-year lease, and trustee Hamid Sheikh hopes the new centre could be up and running in about three months.

He said: “I think people will be pleasantly surprised when they see it is different to what they thought.

“We are welcoming everybody, whatever their creed or colour, to help us develop our aims and goals.”

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The move to convert the derelict hall into a space run by the Muslim association has split the Hainault community.

Petitions from local residents totalled 562 signatures in support of the plans and nearly 500 against it.

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The association says it plans to breathe a new lease of life into the building with a �100,000 refurbishment including a seniors club, health clinic, and function hall.

Plans include a “multifaith” quiet room, which opponents like Barry Bird fear will only be used for Muslim prayer.

Mr Bird, who started the Forest Social Club to try to win back the building in 2008, said he was not surprised by the decision made at a planning meeting at Redbridge Town Hall, High Road, Ilford.

He said: “It was a foregone conclusion that they were going to get it. The councillors who make these decisions don’t live round here. They don’t know what the community wants. We still believe it will be used as a mosque and they will pray in there – and the building won’t be for the whole community.”

Mr Sheikh denied the building would be used for Muslim prayers, adding: “We are there to serve the community, and we celebrate and participate in Christmas, Diwali and Hanukkah.”

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