Worshipers at controversial mosque plead with council to let them carry on praying (From Southend Standard)
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Contentious Westcliff mosque puts its case to stay
WORSHIPERS have urged a planning inspector to let them stay at their makeshift mosque despite complaints from residents.
The group of Shia Muslims, who have set up the mosque in Fairfax Drive, Westcliff, are appealing against Southend Council’s decision to refuse planning permission for it to stay open.
The building was turned into a mosque two years ago and has prompted complaints from residents living in the street.
However, in their submission to the planning inspector, the Jaafriya Islamic Centre, who run the mosque, claim it is the only facility of its type in the area and is used by a local family.
The submission said: “The group comprises approximately 70 men, women and their children as one extended family.
“They are basically working class people, the majority are taxi drivers, who work and live within a radius of 1.5 miles of the premises.
“While there are purpose built facilities for other faiths in the borough, including mosques for Sunni Muslims, there are no premises where this particular worship is practiced or taught.”
It said Zeigham Abbas, 22, who owns the building and is known as Maulana - the group’s leader, teaches about 15 children a day about the religion.
Prayers also take place daily.
It added that chanting from inside the building could not be heard outside and the level of impact on neighbours was exaggerated.
A decision about whether it should be allowed to stay open is set to be made next month.
No residents have submitted objections to the appeal, but many said they did not know that they could send letters in opposing the plans.
Pete Allen a car mechanic, who works for Bursta Tyres next door, said: “The council has never told us we could have just written a letter in. If I put an extension in my garden without permission it would get knocked down, but they have built an extension up against our wall.”
A neighbour opposite who would not be named said: “We were told they were appealing, but the council has never explained how we take part.”
Southend Council has also made no further objections to the inspector about the mosque.
Phillip McIntosh, the council’s team leader of planning enforcement, said: “We felt that all our points had been made in the opening submission.
“Neighbouring properties were notified of the appeal, but there have been no submissions from members of public.”
Martin Terry, Westborough ward councillor, wrote in to object on grounds the extension was excessive and due to noise and litter problems.