After almost a decade in planning and four years since building began, today a landmark new mosque has opened in Preston.
At 11am the doors of the Masjid Salaam mosque in Watling Street Road were thrown open to the community for the first time.
Hundreds of people - mainly non-Muslims from the local area - were taken on tours of the building and sat for speeches explaining the architecture of the mosque and Islamic traditions.
It was the start of two days of the building being open to members of the public, to see what lies beneath the towering dome and minaret of one of Preston’s grandest buildings.
“We feel more than delighted that the whole of the community has come to see this mosque”, said Zafar Saiyed, trustee.
“Maybe a few of them were apprehensive about things like parking, but we want them to know that we’re here to work with them on any issue.
“In Islam there is a saying to Love Thy Neighbour, and that is really important to us.”
The mosque, which has 315 prayer spaces, an IT centre and classrooms, has been built on the site of the former Park Hotel.
Inside, there is an impressive central atrium leading off to the main prayer room and to a staircase.
Inside the prayer room the walls are mainly clad in tile and white marble - heated from behind, and the heated floors are carpetted in turquoise and brown colours.
Four circular lights hang down above the main prayer floor, and a central spiral staircase has prominence as the rooms focus.
Upstairs is a separate prayer room for women, who now have the choice of whether to attend the mosque to pray or continue to do so at home.
Preston Muslim Society battled for four years to win planning consent for the building.
The plans were initially accepted by Preston Council in 2007, only to be rejected months later because planners were concerned about road safety issues and the building’s impact on the conservation area.
A revised application was granted in 2008, but that too was later thrown out after changes were made. The Muslim Society took the fight to a planning appeal.
Planning inspector Louise Crosby decided after a two-day hearing that the building could go ahead, ruling: “The proposal would respect the character and appearance of the Fulwood Conservation Area and not be prejudicial to highway or pedestrian safety.”
Today ward councillor Bobby Cartwright, who had fought against the mosque in the conservation area, said she was impressed.
She said: “It’s amazing the amount of people who have come to have a look, and everyone you come across is so generous with their answers.
“It’s a truly maginificent building. It always was going to be, but I just didn’t think it was the right area for it.”