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‘There will be no changes’ - Muslim association’s vow as planning bid is recommended for go-ahead

PUBLISHED: 13:33 02 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

A Muslim group has insisted nothing will change at its base if it is successful in a planning bid which has sparked a parking row - and has been recommended for approval by planning officers.

The Norwich and Norfolk Muslim Association (NNMA), which is based on Dereham Road, has applied to Norwich City Council to remove a condition from its original planning permission which stated its primary function would not be a place of worship.

The condition led to confusion in the community, with some believing it prevented prayer from taking place in the former pub altogether - leading to the association’s application.

Now, in a statement submitted to the city council, the NNMA has insisted nothing will change in the day-to-day operation of the centre, as it looks to allay fears over the volume of vehicles needing to park and confusion ahead of the council’s decision.

The statement reads: “The association interpretation of the restriction was that it is not primarily a place of worship. However, an essential part of the Muslim’s daily activity is the five-times daily prayers. Moreover, there are also other important activities of worship during the fasting month of Ramadan.

“This has created some confusion and objections starting to rise from the neighbours stating these activities represented a breach of terms and conditions linked to the approval of change of use of the building.”

The statement goes on to explain the range of other activities already taking place at the centre, including food bank collection, Arabic classes and midday Friday prayer.

It adds: “The NNMA confirms there will be no changes, none whatsoever, to the activities of the centre which has been witnessed since its opening in 2012.”

More than 140 people have commented on the application, with a fine split between those supporting and objecting. The majority of 69 objections included concerns around parking.

As a result, the NNMA has submitted a revised travel plan to allay these concerns. In this, it states the association will carry out annual travel surveys and continue to promote schemes to mitigate the number of vehicles accessing the area - including car shares.

Norwich City Council’s planing committee will decide the application’s fate next week.

Recommended for approval

The application is due to be decided by the city council’s planning committee on Thursday, January 10, with officers recommending it for approval.

Giving her recommendations, Maria Hammond, the city council’s case officer for the application, said the building “positively contributes to the well-being and social cohesion of the local community”.

She said: “At peak times, the on-site parking is insufficient to accommodate all visitors and it is appreciate that on-street parking around the site is intensively used. The proposal is, however, not considered to unacceptably exacerbate this or result in any detrimental highways impacts.”

Neighbours also expressed concerns around calls to prayer, but in the recommendations the officer said: “Objections to the proposal raise concerns about the amenity impacts from use of the building as a mosque, including broadcasting of calls to prayer and holding prayers five times a day for dawn to dusk. This is not proposed.”

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