New Preston mosque would be open to the whole community, amid warning against ‘them and us’ attitude
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The planned place of worship would also be “progressive” and open for women to pray within its walls - although it is thought unlikely that many would take advantage of the opportunity.
Details of how the Brick Veil Mosque would operate were presented on Friday during the fourth day of the inquiry, which will help determine whether the facility is ultimately allowed to be built on land alongside the Broughton roundabout.
Alban Cassidy, a director of the Preston-based architectural and planning firm Cassidy + Ashton, which is seeking permission for the scheme, took issue with the suggestion that the landmark mosque would “only benefit the Muslim community”.
He added: “For most of the time, it will be accessible for others to use. As you would expect, you would show respect to traditions within the building - it's not going to be suddenly available to have 18th [birthday] parties in, shall we say, the lively fashion - but it’s going to be there for scout groups…health classes [and] as meeting space.
“The only restriction would be during the Jummah prayer sessions on Friday...between 12 and 3. But other than that, this is a facility that’s going to be available for the community and there will be...a booking system and you will be able to approach and make arrangements,” Mr. Cassidy explained.
However, the advocate representing Broughton Parish Council - which has objected to the mosque in its proposed location - said that there was no evidence that any local organisations outside the Muslim community were clamouring for such facilities.
Peter Black said; “The issue that I’m trying to tease out…is whether any groups that aren’t associated with Islam or Muslims have actually said definitely that they would [use the building] or that they’ve even been asked.”
Mr. Cassidy said that he was “not aware of that” - but pointed to a need for community spaces identified in Broughton Parish Council’s own local plan and also a submission made at the start of the inquiry by a local scout group leader, Fatima Ismail, about the benefits of the mosque.
Mr. Black responded that he believed she had been speaking on behalf of “a Muslim group” - but that prompted the applicant’s barrister, Christiaan Zwart, to claim that the comment “crosses the line”.
“The applicant is very sensitive to descriptions that are being used and [so] can I ask everyone just to be very careful in their language of [avoiding] a kind of ‘them and us’ approach,” Mr. Zwart appealed.
"We’re all one community here.”
Alban Cassidy said that Ms. Ismail’s scout group was “open to non-Muslims as well”. He also moved to clarify suggestions made at the inquiry that the mosque may be used for educational and childcare purposes - stressing that that did not mean there would be a madrassa on the site.
Mr. Cassidy said that such a facility - at which Muslim children learn about their religion - would be “akin to a school” and was not part of the proposal, while he also ruled out a permanent nursery or creche, as opposed to something at a “very casual level”.
Pressed by Mr. Black as to whether supporters of the scheme who were expecting it to include education and childcare offerings were “just simply...mistaken”, Mr. Cassidy said that education “in that formal sense” had never been proposed - having earlier offered women’s health classes as an example of the kind of service that would be provided.
The inquiry also heard that the Brick Veil Mosque would be one of those to offer a space in which women could pray.
Alban Cassidy explained: “Islam is a very traditional religion. In terms of prayer, it is very much a tradition that the actual formal prayer at a mosque is undertaken by the men - and ladies and children traditionally pray at home or elsewhere.”
However, he described the proposed mosque at Broughton as “progressive” and said that it would provide “the opportunity for women to attend if they wish”, with separate prayer facilities available for them and younger children within the building. But he added that at other mosques where that was an option - including Masjid E Salaam in Fulwood - the “actuality is that the take up is minimal”.
Mr. Cassidy made the point under cross-examination over the adequacy of the proposed car parking arrangements for the scheme. The mosque would have capacity for 248 prayer mats and associated worshippers, while there would be 150 car parking spaces.
Asked by Peter Black whether 248 would be “the maximum” number of people in the mosque at any one time, Mr. Cassidy said that there may be “a handful” of those women and children who attended prayers - but he stressed that they would be unlikely to travel independently to the site in any case.
Seventy-seven of the parking spots would be reserved for shared car use, which the inquiry heard would allow 217 worshippers to be accommodated arriving by car, based on at least two people travelling in each of the vehicles occupying a shared space. That would mean only 12.5 percent of worshippers would have to travel on foot or by public transport.
Timothy Russell, the expert transport witness for the applicant, also told the inquiry that he believed the segregated shared use cycle lane and footway to be installed on the cul-de-sac section of D'Urton Lane as part of the mosque plans would count as an “enhancement” to the Guild Wheel of which it would form a small stretch.
He also addressed concerns expressed by the parish council’s transport witness earlier in the week about the “chaos” that could be caused by drivers being turned away if they failed to reserve a space under the online booking system which would control access to the car park.
Mr. Russell said that even in the unlikely event vehicles then parked illegally on D’Urton Lane, the reconfigured carriageway would be wide enough to allow two cars to pass.
Under the planning permission granted by Preston City Council in February, double yellow lines should be introduced if the car park management plan for the site fails to prevent “overflow parking” on D'Urton Lane.
Mr. Black told the inquiry that the yellow lines currently in place were unenforceable, because they had been introduced as a temporary measure after the Broughton bypass opened.