EXPANSION plans for an East Oxford mosque, which were branded ‘unsightly’ by neighbours, are set to go ahead after council officers approved the project.

Representatives of the Stanley Road Medina Mosque last month put forward the proposal to expand the front of the building, which is used by some 700 Muslim worshippers, and modernise the facilities.

The project at one of the city's eight mosques, received a hostile response from neighbours, with Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder also joining in with the condemnation, citing over-development and the building's proposed appearance as reasons for objection.

The project includes plans for a disabled toilet, the expansion of a washing area at the front of the building, and an additional entrance opening out on to an adjacent alleyway.

Following Oxford City Council approval, mosque chairman Sadat Khan sought to allay fears and re-assure the community. He said: “I am very pleased with the decision and I would like to thank all those people that have supported it and all those that haven’t.

“We understand the concerns that neighbours had and the worry of the possibility of increasing the number of worshippers at the mosque, but that isn’t the case.

“We have no intention of increasing the number of worshippers there.

“The building is old and badly needed improving. We have a lot of disabled people going there and we didn’t have disabled toilets, so it was something we felt we needed to have as part of the refurbishment."

He added: “There were a lot of complaints about people crowding around outside, and the new entrance will help to disperse that and spread it out.

“With the neighbours’ concerns, it was a bit disappointing because we were not involved in the discussions.

“I believe that if we get together then we can work together because we feel we are a part of that neighbourhood. We want to do our bit to alleviate their concerns.”

Among those concerns were that it represented ‘over-development’ and any expansion would be ‘unsightly’.

St Mary’s councillor Dick Wolff said that the building was ‘a Tardis’ and he had great sympathy for both the residents and the worshippers.

He said: “The Muslim community is growing and thriving, and so they need space.”

Mr Khan said work would begin once the holy festival of Ramadan had finished on June 24.