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'Racism, racism, racism': Bigots slammed as Islamic community hub gets go-ahead

PUBLISHED: 11:28 08 August 2019 | UPDATED: 16:23 08 August 2019

Al Madinah Ltd is seeking permission to turn the Sandy Lane salon into a community facility to serve people living nearby in Old Lakenham. Photo: Google

Al Madinah Ltd is seeking permission to turn the Sandy Lane salon into a community facility to serve people living nearby in Old Lakenham. Photo: Google

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Councillors hit out at the motives of objectors to a new Islamic community hub in Norwich as they gave the green light to the scheme.

Keith Driver, chairman of Norwich City Council's planning committee. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYKeith Driver, chairman of Norwich City Council's planning committee. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

As Al Madinah Ltd sought permission to create a new community centre from a former hairdressers on Sandy Lane, an anonymous flyer and petition was circulated calling for the scheme to be refused.

The flyer contained a number of untruths about the scheme, including claims it was to be used as a mosque and overstating its size.

This led to dozens of objections being lodged against the scheme, which officers at City Hall described as defamatory.

It also prompted anger from committee members, who questioned the motives of whoever was circulating it.

Keith Driver, chairman of Norwich City Council's planning committee, said: "I received flyers through my door and received emails and all I heard was racism, racism, racism."

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Considering the application, which was eventually approved, the committee heard concerns from members of the public relating to parking, traffic concerns and opening hours of the new hub - set to be between 8am and 11pm.

Charlotte Hounsell, the council's case officer, said traffic issues were an existing issue and that the applicants would be required to provide a transport plan.

Mike Sands, city councillor for the Bowthorpe ward, said: "If this were an application for a Christian, Anglican or Catholic centre I am wondering whether there would have been quite the same level of objection. I think not."

Marion Maxwell, vice chairman of the committee, added that she was saddened by the way the objections had unfolded, and apologised to the applicants.

Andrew Clarke, who represented the applicants, said the plan was for the centre to be open to the entire community - not just those of the Islamic faith.

He said: "There are Muslims who feel isolated, despite already being your friends and neighbours. Anyone will be able to attend the centre and my clients want to create social cohesion with it."

The building had previously been run as a hair salon, but has been vacant for more than a year.

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