An investigation has been launched into a community centre amid claims it is secretly being used as a mosque.

Hainault and Chigwell Muslim Association took over the running of Hainault Community Centre in September for the purpose of “improving education”.

However, a petition signed by 57 residents says people now feel excluded from the centre due to regular meetings attended by Mulsims.

But chairman of the association in charge, Dr Sohail Hameed, insists the centre is not being used solely as a place of worship and said the whole community is welcome at the centre.

“Anyone is welcome to use the centre, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Christian,” he said.

“We do not have mass prayer here. It is half and half, the men have a lecture on a Friday afternoon and then they say a prayer before they leave.

“The opposition does not surprise me. The BNP have many followers in this area.

“This is not a mosque. It is for the whole community to come and sing and dance and hire the rooms.”

A council spokesman said: “The permitted use of Jacques Hall as a community centre is regulated both by the terms of its current planning permission, and the terms of the lease agreed with the Council.

“We have received claims, separately and within a petition, that Jacques Hall is being used for religious activity that falls outside its permitted use.

“We have an obligation to look into these claims and an investigation is currently ongoing.”