City mosque gets go ahead for 24-hour access - but only for praying

Norwich and Norfolk Muslim Association's community centre on Dereham Road. Picture: Google

Norwich and Norfolk Muslim Association's community centre on Dereham Road. Picture: Google - Credit: Google

A city mosque has been spared the need to hunt for a new home after councillors ruled prayers could be held there 24 hours a day.

The Norwich and Norfolk Muslim Association (NNMA) had been told that it may need to seek a new headquarters should councillors refuse its bid to allow its home on Dereham Road to be used for prayer at any hour of the day.

With the prayer cycle of Islam tied to the movement of the sun, at certain times of year the first daily prayer would in the past fall outside the centre's permitted opening hours.

The association therefore applied to Norwich City Council to allow worshippers to access the mosque at any hour, solely for the purpose of prayer.

And it looked as though the bid may fail, with planners at City Hall recommending to councillors that it be turned down, amid concerns over noise from visitors to the centre.

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However, after the application was called in by cabinet member for planning Mike Stonard, the committee instead voted to support the bid and allow the 24-hour access. Mr Stonard, who lives opposite the mosque, said: "I have no objections whatsoever to the application - it is very rare to notice any noise from the centre at all.

"In fact, I am not aware of any formal complaints against the association in the eight years it has been based there."

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Nannette Youssef, Green Party councillor for the Nelson ward, added: "With Islamophobia on the rise I think it is important we come out in support of this application."

A spokesman for the NNMA told the committee: "We do not want 24-hour access for anything, we just want it so our devoted members can pray at the times they need to."

Going against officer recommendations, the committee voted to approve the application, but added a five-year time limit to review whether noise issues are created. After this period a renewed application will be required.

During the meeting it was clarified that the permission only grants the association permission to access the site overnight for the purpose of prayer only, with its community centre purpose still restricted.

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