Golders Green Hippodrome planning verdict 'expected' July 19
- Credit: Max Von Hagen
Campaigners are hopeful that Barnet councillors will make a decision over whether or not the Golders Green Hippodrome can be used as a community centre and place of worship on July 19.
Lawyers for the Hippodrome's owners have been told that the council is working towards bringing the issue to the town hall's strategic planning committee on that date.
The application was made by the Markaz El Tathgheef el-Eslami group (MTE), which has owned the site since 2017 in July 2020.
To this newspaper, a town hall spokesperson stopped short of confirming the date but said the council was "in discussions" and working towards hearing the application then.
In May, MTE accused Barnet Council of breaching the Equality Act in how it has managed the application.
The council fervently denied this, saying at the time: "We take pride in the strong faith communities that call Barnet home and support all in a culture of harmony and respect.
"The council has been working closely with the applicant throughout the planning process."
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MTE's lawyers cited "religious discrimination" which they said had been behind the delays, and said it had been treated differently because it was a Muslim group.
The town hall said this was not the case, and contends that it has treated the application fairly.
Ali Madani, of the Faiths Forum for London group, said: "It felt as if we were being treated less favourably than the church that had used the Hippodrome for 10 years before it was bought by the Markaz.
“It is fantastic news that the council has now set a date for the decision."
Faith leaders and community groups have backed MTE - most recently individuals including nearby Rabbis Miriam Berger and Joshua Levy took part in a video for the Barnet Chooses Love campaign showing support.
Mike Freer MP is among those to have criticised an anonymous poster campaign targeting MTE.
It is not a mosque and MTE believes its use should fall within the existing planning permission. This approval dates back to 2007, and states the building can be used "as a church to enrich community with schemes for children, unemployed, elderly etc", and "to hold concerts, conferences, drama and dance festivals".
The town hall has disagreed and it commenced enforcement action against MTE in 2019. After discussions MTE were told that submitting a new planning application may be a quicker way of resolving the issue, rather than waiting for a public planning inquiry which was delayed due to the pandemic.