Thumbs up for pub to open as mosque

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CONTROVERSIAL plans to turn a former pub in Bletchley into a mosque have been given the go-ahead.

On Thursday, Milton Keynes Council’s development committee approved plans to convert the old Plough pub in Water Eaton into a mosque, replacing the existing place of worship in Duncombe Street, which the community has outgrown.

The decision came as a blow to a large group of local residents who objected, claiming traffic, congestion and parking problems would intensify if plans were agreed.

Proposals for a new mosque on the pub site were submitted in December 2010.

The plans were strongly opposed by residents as well as councillors from Bletchley and Fenny Stratford Town Council and ward councillors in the area.

The BNP also held a series of protests, including one outside the council offices on Thursday evening after members had earlier handed out leaflets.

Councillor Reg Edwards, who represents Eaton Manor, voiced his concerns regarding the mosque.

He said: “The change of use for the premises is for a house of worship, in which case I think it is only fair to mention that the parking facilities will be inadequate and the persons attending the building will be street parking in Mill Road, Larch Grove and possibly outside the Coronation Hall, Stoke Road because there is insufficient parking space on the former Plough pub car parking area.”

Councillor Jan Lloyd denied that the decision to speak out against the plans was racially motivated, though admitted some were against it for that reason.

She said: “I deplore the fact some elements of the community are seeking to make this a racist matter which it is not.

“I understand and support the need of the local Muslim community to have a new mosque to replace the very overcrowded one in Duncombe Street.

“There are no pedestrian crossings close by and the complicated junction of four heavily used roads makes the whole complex very dangerous.”

Andrew Morris, chairman of the development control at Milton Keynes Council, said the committee debated the transport assessment provided by the applicant and the majority determined that it was mostly accurate.

No external alterations are likely to be carried out to the building.

And concerns about parking were allayed by Mujibur Rahman, a spokesman for the Mosque, who had told planners the existing 49 spaces would be adequate.