Golders Green Hippodrome: Community effort to support planning application
- Credit: Archant
The owners of the Golders Green Hippodrome are seeking planning approval to change its use from a "church" to a "place of worship".
The Markaz El Tathgheef Es Eslami (MTE) has been operating at the Hippodrome since taking over the venue in 2017.
The Arabic term "Markaz" translates as "community centre".
MTE believes using the venue as an Islamic community centre should fall within the existing planning permission, given in 2007: "To use building as a church to enrich community with schemes for children, unemployed, elderly etc. To hold concerts, conferences, drama and dance festivals."
But, following disputes with the council, it has put in application to change it to: "Use as a Place of Worship (D1 use) and for ancillary community uses, public conferences and performances."
Barnet Council brought enforcement proceedings against MTE's use of the site in 2019, arguing that "use of the land as a cultural centre, not comprising use as a church, to hold concerts, conferences, drama and dance festivals" was in breach of the permission - but the owners appealed this decision
A public planning inquiry was due to take place in 2020, but has been delayed due to the pandemic. Barnet advised MTE that a new planning application might prove a quicker solution.
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Interfaith groups led by Citizens UK, and with the involvement of the nearby Alyth Synagogue, are supporting the MTE application - particularly after an anonymous leaflet campaign against MTE was revived last week. A website - loveoverhatebarnet.com - has also launched.
The anonymous campaign has described the venue as a "mega-mosque", a description denied by the owners.
MP Mike Freer (Con, Finchley and Golders Green) said he has "consistently" told constituents that any objections should only be on planning grounds and added: "The building has been used as a church and so the faith in question is not a valid reason for objections and not one I would countenance."
Mr Freer also moved to debunk a rumour that a Jewish group had been denied permission planning permission for the venue. He said he has checked with Barnet Council and this is "simply untrue".
The anti-Islamophobia charity Tell MAMA - which works to protect the Muslim community in much the same way CST protects the Jewish community from antisemitism - has also said it was "very concerned" at the revival of a "faceless" campaign against MTE's application.
A spokesperson said: “No other faith community has been targeted by such co-ordinated campaigns which is troubling and we have seen anti-Muslim and far right groups and campaigners previously behind such campaigns."
The application is available on Barnet Council's planning portal - reference 20/2988/FUL - and comments are open until March 8.