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'Borderline racist' remarks to be passed on to police as councillors apologise to Muslim community centre

PUBLISHED: 06:00 11 January 2019 | UPDATED: 15:38 11 January 2019

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

Google

Comments on a Muslim community centre's planning application are to be passed on to the police by the city council.

Marion Maxwell, Labour councillor for Crome: Pic: Labour.Marion Maxwell, Labour councillor for Crome: Pic: Labour.

It comes as councillors apologised to the Norwich and Norfolk Muslim Association for the way some people responded to the application’s consultation.

The NNMA, which runs a community centre on Dereham Road in Norwich, had applied to the city council to remove the term ‘place of worship’ from a list of prohibited uses for the centre - which had caused confusion among neighbours.

The application received more than 140 responses from members of the public, a handful of which contained derogatory comments aimed at the Muslim faith.

Ahead of unanimously approving the application, members of the committee expressed deep regret at the nature of the comments, as well as the fact an anonymous leaflet was circulated among neighbours objecting to the plans.

Marion Maxwell, vice chairman of the committee, said: “When I saw some of the comments on the application I was appalled. I first came to live here around 20 years ago and was welcomed with open arms which is what I love most about this city.

“But some of the comments I saw on this were disgusting and borderline racist, so all I can do is apologise on their behalf.”

The community centre has been based in the former Queen Charlotte for around 2011, but a condition stating that a place of worship was not its primary use led to misconceptions that prayer was not permitted. Therefore, the association submitted its application to alleviate this confusion.

Ian Stutely, city councillor for Town Close, added: “It is no surprise to me that despite the number of objections, nobody turned up to speak about it.”

Mike Stonard, the city council’s cabinet member for development, who lives opposite the community centre, described the association as “excellent neighbours”.

He said: “The people who circulated the leaflets completely misinterpreted the situation and did not even feel able to put their names to it.

“The centre are excellent neighbours who welcome the whole community and I would far rather they be there than a pub.”

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