An Islamic group which operated a West Midlands mosque without planning permission for EIGHT years before being instructed to leave by council bosses, is STILL there more than two years on.
AltNewsMedia can reveal that in December 2015, Sandwell Council refused a retrospective planning application from the Gambian Islamic Community Centre to retain their premises on 36a Windmill Lane, Smethwick. At that time, the group had already used the site for eight years before being forced to seek retrospective planning permission following an investigation by the council’s enforcement team following complaints about vehicles parking in “unrestricted areas”.
Planning documents from the time confirm this to be the case with one report saying: “The current application has also been submitted following an enforcement investigation (ENF/15/9480). The applicant is seeking retrospective permission to use the first floor as a mosque and further consent to demolish the garage to the rear to create 8 parking spaces.”
The Islamic centre, which had up to 60 members at the time, eventually lost its bid to stay on the site after council members and officers agreed it “conflicts with the existing uses” of its home which was shared with a number of other businesses.
“I consider that the site conflicts with existing lawful uses and has a detrimental effect on users of the highway due to increase comings and goings and unsatisfactory parking provision,” the council report concluded.
At the time the applicant, Mr Lamin Yaffa, had told the Express & Star newspaper that he was saddened by the decision, adding “we deserve a right to operate here as we are helping the greater community and are an important part of that. We teach English classes and help all generations with the work we do.”
He then took the decision to an appeal with the planning inspectorate in a bid to overturn the local ruling, but this was also refused in September 2016.
But despite the two decisions – at both local and national level – it appears that the group is still operating from its 36a Windmill Lane premises around two and a half years on according to its active Facebook page.
The group announced on Monday that they had now secured a deal for a building in Bearwood Road which used to be home to two law firms; but that they still needed to raise £56,000 by 20th June to finalise the purchase. After setting up a GoFundMe appeal last year, called the ‘Masjid Purchase Appeal – Smethwick’, the group has already raised £370,000 through 30 donations including one made by the ‘Masjid Community’ this week for £54,531.
“Please donate generously to this worthy cause and help your brothers and sisters in Islam in securing a place of worship,” the group urged supporters on its campaign website.
It comes just weeks after mosque owners in Reading had a retrospective application approved despite council officers saying it was “unfortunate” they hadn’t followed the correct planning guidelines.
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