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Mosque 'rode roughshod' over planning laws

Mosque bosses have been given a "slap on the wrist" for taking the axe to trees without permission.

Several trees outside the Masjid-E-Salaam mosque in Watling Street Road, Fulwood, Preston have been felled.

But because the conifers and fruit trees were in a conservation area, members of the mosque committee should have asked town hall planning chiefs before doing the work.

The planning breach came to light as planners were considering proposals to extend the car park at the congested site.

Coun Dave Hammond, a member of the planning committee, said: "They just seem to ride roughshod over what they're told. They've no excuses at all.

"For five years they've known they're in a conservation area. Ignorance of this is no excuse in this case. Can we have some assurance from officers that if they do breach these rules that action will be taken, not just a slap on the wrist?"

And Coun Margaret McManus, a fellow committee member, said: "These people have taken trees down which they shouldn't have done.

"We can't just give them a slap on the hand. Can we not fine them? They know the law – it's just a blatant disregard of the rules."

Planning officers have already investigated, visiting the site and inspecting photographs of the trees before their removal.

A letter was sent to the mosque committee "advising them strongly of the breach", although the council would not have objected to the removals. A tree preservation order was made on the remaining five limes, a copper beech and a holly tree fronting Victoria Road.

Alison Kershaw, development control divisional manager at Preston Council, said: "I think they didn't realise they had to notify the authority. We don't condone people removing trees without the necessary consent or notification."

It was also suggested a 6ft section of a brick wall had been removed without permission, but planners realised consent was not required.

At the end of a 45-minute discussion, planners agreed to allow the car park to be extended, subject to 12 conditions which include stewarding and lighting.

A second access road will also be added to create a one-way system.

Plans for a new, larger mosque on the site were finally given permission in September last year, but work has not yet started.

>> Mosque row over trees

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