Preston 'motorway mosque': This is when the public inquiry will begin, how long it will last and the date after which a decision can be expected

A date has been set for the public inquiry that will determine whether a major new mosque can be built on the outskirts of Preston.

Monday, 11th April 2022, 5:03 pm
Updated Monday, 11th April 2022, 5:45 pm

It comes after the government last week took the rare decision to ‘call in’ approved plans for the place of worship, which were given the green light by Preston City Council in February.

The authority’s planning committee voted by a majority to grant permission for the building on a prominent plot alongside the Broughton roundabout, where the M6 and M55 meet the A6.

However, following representations from at least two local politicians, the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Secretary, Michael Gove, ordered an inquiry which will give him the final say over whether the mosque ever gets off the ground.

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The Lancashire Post understands that the hearing will begin at 10am on 2nd August.

The Planning Inspectorate has scheduled six days for the inquiry to sit at a local venue which has yet to be decided.

The case will be heard by planning inspector Darren Hendley who will prepare a report containing a recommendation for Mr. Gove to consider before he decides whether to uphold or overturn the approval given by the city council.

That document is expected to be passed to the Secretary of State on or before 1st November, but there is no fixed date by which the minister then has to make his decision.

The original plans attracted more than 625 letters of support and over 425 objections. Call-in rules mean that Preston City Council is having to contact all of the interested parties who made comments on the application advising them of the hearing.

Anybody can make submissions to a call-in inquiry - and, at the discretion of the inspector, may be able to address it directly during the sitting.

Written representations in this case must be made to the Planning Inspectorate by 23rd May.

The application for the mosque was made by Preston-based planning specialists Cassidy + Ashton, which has been approached by the Post for comment about the government move to call in the matter.

Preston City Council said last week that it was “disappointed” that its decision was being contested.

The authority’s planning officers had recommended that, on balance, permission should be granted for the mosque - which will be 12 metres tall with a 30-metre minaret and have capacity for 248 prayer mats and associated worshippers - because of what they concluded was an identified need for it in the area.

However, they acknowledged that it did not accord with other aspects of local planning policy about the type of development that should be permitted on sites like the one proposed.

The planning committee meeting in February heard concerns over the potential impact of the mosque on surrounding roads and over its scale and appearance. But members were also told that Muslim families living in the area should not be deprived of a local place of worship.

Until the call-in decision is made by Michael Gove, the city council is not allowed to grant planning permission for any similar development on the same site.