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Mosque needs new site, say neighbours
1:00pm Monday 17th December 2012 in News
ONE of the city’s three mosques has outgrown its site and should move elsewhere, it has been claimed.
Neighbours of the Madina Mosque in Stanley Road oppose plans to extend the premises, which already caters for hundreds of Muslims each day.
A planning application was submitted on October 15 to build a single-storey prayer room at the back of the mosque as well as making other alterations.
Muhammad Ahmed Qazi, a junior imam at the mosque, said one reason for extending the mosque was to minimise disruption to the neighbours.
But residents say the mosque has now outgrown its site and does not fit in with the road, which is in a conservation area.
Stanley Road resident and university lecturer Richard Wilson, said the mosque does not fit in with the conservation area because much of the site has been covered in concrete and bushes, shrubs and trees have been removed.
Mr Wilson said: “We want to make clear that these are not complaints – they are concerns.
“But the sad thing is that the point of a conservation area is that it has been chosen by the council as one of the best areas of Oxford.
“The development that has appeared since the original villa has unfortunately led to degradation and this application is continuing that process.”
The mosque currently splits its Friday prayers into two sittings for 700-800 people.
It is hoped the expansion will mean worshippers can attend one sitting together.
Clare Oxby, a Stanley Road resident and university teacher, is among the group of neighbours worried about the plans.
She said: “Residents feel having everyone worshipping at the same time will dramatically increase the already severe traffic congestion at peak times.
“The mosque has gradually grown in membership over the years and, because of extension after extension in previous years, the site is already overdeveloped.
“The current proposal, involving huge further extension resulting in the covering of about 80 per cent of the original back garden space, is quite inappropriate in this conservation area neighbourhood.
“As far as I know, residents have not been consulted by the mosque. Arguments are being put into our mouths.”
Residents have submitted a list of their dozen main concerns to their local councillor Dick Wolff ahead of any planning hearing on the application.
Imam Qazi, said the mosque committee was thinking about moving to another site, but it may not be a fast move because he believed the resources are not there.
The Rev Dick Wolff, who represents the St Mary’s ward on Oxford City Council, said he believed the proposals represented a “significant” expansion of the building.
He said: “When you are reaching the point where you are looking at building on over 80 per cent of a site you have to think, well, hang on, have they outgrown the place.
“It looks to me like an expansion so the question is whether that is really feasible on that site.”
He said the community had supported the mosque over the years and added: “I am a church minister myself so I understand how important it is to have a building suited to your community’s use.”