Maida Hill Muslim centre may be forced to close

Council set to shut down cultural centre set up a year ago without permission

A Muslim cultural centre that provides Islamic education to youngsters in Maida Hill is set to be shut down today if Westminster Council rejects a planning application for its continued use.

The community centre on Saltram Crescent, which holds daily prayers and classes for children, came into existence inside a shop about a year ago and has effectively been operating without planning permission since then.

The council’s planning consultation saw 100 responses in support of the centre, while a petition with 109 signatures was gathered in opposition. Planning officers have recommended the application for refusal.

Many residents’ objections are based on noise disturbance with the centre holding prayers early in the morning and late into the evening – from 4.30am and until 10.30pm in summer months. Other objections include the suitability of the small premises for community use, people congregating outside the centre and strain on parking places.

One resident who lives nearby but who does not wish to be named, said: “They’re there at 3.30am, making noise while my wife and I are trying to sleep.

“Sometimes there are 60 people there and I’ve once counted 24 children inside. It’s not a safe place for children. There is only one door at the front and another going into the shop next door.

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“Also, women in the area are frightened to walk in front of the centre when there are so many men around and are forced to cross the road. I’ve also been threatened. People asking me, ‘What’s your problem? What do you care about what we’re doing?’

While planning officers have rejected objections based on health and safety and parking grounds, they recommend the application’s refusal due to noise disturbance which “harms the amenity of nearby residents”.

They say “it is considered that the harm caused to the amenity of neighbouring residents outweighs the religious need for the local Muslim population”.

However, one 30-year-old man who uses the centre said it was created due to a lack of alternative provision in the borough.

“There is a large Muslim community and the council must recognise their needs because at the moment they aren’t being provided for,” he said. “I don’t understand how anyone can have a problem with this place. There are about five pubs near here that cause more disruption than this tiny place.

“We’re all paying our taxes, we’re all community residents and if the council isn’t going to provide anything for us then we’ll just set something up ourselves.”

Harrow Road Cllr Rush Bush said she is hoping to speak at the meeting tonight.

“I want to make it clear that I think what the centre is doing is very good,” she said. “I think it makes a very positive contribution.

“They want to make sure that children are learning about how to be a Muslim in this country.

“But I do think this is an inappropriate location and the refusal is right. There’s nowhere for people to congregate outside, it’s a tiny little narrow space and they deserve better.

“I will do whatever I can to help them find somewhere better but I’m not hopeful of finding somewhere fast.”

The centre declined to comment until after the application is decided.