‘Racists not wanted’ in Preston village where there is opposition to the proposed Brick Veil Mosque

A website criticising plans for a proposed new mosque on the outskirts of Preston has added a pointed message to its homepage to warn that “racists [are] not welcome”.

By Paul Faulkner
Sunday, 31st July 2022, 5:26 pm

The site - whose origin is unknown - appeared online ahead of a public inquiry, starting this Tuesday, which will determine whether the landmark place of worship can be built on a plot alongside the Broughton roundabout.

Supporters of what would be known as the Brick Veil Mosque issued a plea for a “respectful” discussion last week in response to what they claimed was some of the “false and potentially defamatory content” of the website - which appeared designed to mimic the design of a site set up to promote the proposal.

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The plot proposed for the new mosque is an elevated patch of ground that was previously used as a compound during construction of the Broughton Bypass more than five years ago (image: RIBA)

Two politicians who called for the government to have the final say over the mosque - a move which sparked next week’s inquiry - also said that the debate over the plans should not be allowed to drive a wedge between locals.

The website opposed to the development has now undergone a sudden refresh, with its landing page declaring: “This website is not about race or religion”.

It adds: “If you’re leveraging it to make racially divisive arguments, you’re not welcome on this website or in Broughton. This website is about preventing dangerous traffic problems and protecting historic sites from overdevelopment.

“More than anything, this site is about ensuring that planning rules apply to everyone, regardless of wealth. They should not be disregarded because one developer has the money to circumvent them and fund a PR campaign, rather than considering a more appropriate location for the project."

Some of the more sharply-worded sections of the site have also been toned down. A “contact us” page - which conspicuously did not provide any contact details - initially read: “There’s no point contacting anyone because there’s nothing you can do about it. Enjoy your new eyesore and traffic problems, suckers.”

As of Friday, that section had been altered to advise readers how to make representations to the inquiry.

As the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) revealed on Thursday, Wyre and Preston North MP Ben Wallace said that the forthcoming inquiry will be will be “determined on planning grounds and should not be a cause for friction within the local community”

Mr. Wallace and Conservative city councillor for the Preston Rural East ward, Graham Jolliffe, made separate requests to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities for the secretary of state to “call-in” the controversial application, after it was approved by Preston City Council’s planning committee in February.

Cllr Jolliffe last week told the LDRS that he did want there to be any “lingering bitterness” following the outcome of the inquiry, which will see a planning inspector make a recommendation to the government about whether to rubber stamp or overturn the permission which has been granted for the development. He said he hoped that the detailed process to be undertaken next week would help avert any such tensions.

Broughton Parish Council - which has opposed the mosque plan from the outset - distanced itself from the website and told the LDRS last week that it had written to the inspector to assure him that the neighbourhood authority had played no part in it.

The website opposed to the mosque sets out a range of reasons which its anonymous authors say mean that the building - a 12 metre-high facility with 30-metre tall minaret - should never see the light of day in the proposed location.

It points to the potential for traffic problems, highlights concern over the adequacy of the proposed parking arrangements and says that the mosque would largely serve worshippers living to the south of the M55 - and so should be built in the Fulwood area instead.

The site also outlines local policies with which the mosque development is in conflict - something which a majority of members of Preston City Council’s planning committee concluded was outweighed by the benefits of the proposal and the fact that it complied with other material planning considerations.

The public inquiry begins on Tuesday (2nd August) at 10am and will be live-streamed. It is scheduled to run for up to six days across the course of just over a week.