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Anglican priest condemns mosque refusal in Walthamstow as ‘embarrassing’
A priest has described a council decision to refuse to allow a pub to be turned into a mosque as ‘embarrassing’.
Around 200 people gathered outside a packed council chamber last night as Waltham Forest Council’s planning committee decided on the application from the Faizan-e-Islam organisation to convert the Waltham Oak in Lea Bridge Road, Walthamstow, which has been closed for a year.
Father Steven Saxby, Parish Priest at St Barnabas Vicarage in St Barnabas Road, Walthamstow, spoke in favour of the application at the meeting and said he was “astonished” by the decision to refuse it.
Residents and committee members expressed concern at the loss of a landmark historical pub, which they said has been an important part of the community in that part of Walthamstow.
The application was then denied on the grounds of potential disturbance to people living in sheltered housing next door and predicted parking congestion in the area at prayer times.
Father Saxby said the shortage of mosques in the borough is a more pressing issue than a shortage of pubs, with 16 official mosques to cater for more than 60,000 Muslims in Waltham Forest.
He said: “To me the arguments before the committee for the mosque far outweighed those for the pub.
“I thought it was embarrassing for the borough that a body of people that are doing such good work in the community are prevented from doing more good.”
Father Saxby has worked with Faizan-e-Islam for over ten years as they currently run a mosque in Corbett Road, Walthamstow.
He spoke at the meeting on behalf of a coalition of churches in support of the application including Our Lady in St George catholic church and the Walthamstow Team Ministry, comprising St Gabriel’s, St Luke’s, St Mary’s and St Stephen’s.
Telling the committee of the work Faizan-e-Islam do providing food for elderly people at St Gabriel’s once a month, he said: “This is an exemplary mosque showing commitment to the community.”
Dismayed by the council’s decision, Father Saxby said the committee “displayed a notable ignorance of the Muslim faith and the excellent work of Faizen-e-Islam.”
He added: “This was a poor decision which we can only expect to be overturned at appeal.”
Planning committee chair, Peter Barnett, said the committee had a good track record of approving mosques but he did not support this application.
He said: “The loss of a pub is an important consideration. Removing a pub from that area will devastate the night time economy and pubs are dropping off at an alarming rate.”
He added: “This will generate a great deal of traffic and parking problems.”
“I would be happy to support a mosque in another place but this is the wrong place to have a mosque.”
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