Plans for new Islamic faith school in Crawley refused
Plans to build an Islamic Faith School in Crawley have been refused by borough councillors by the narrowest of margins.
The application, to build on a car park next to Broadfield Mosque, was decided on the chairman’s vote at a meeting of the planning committee on Tuesday (July 20).
The meeting saw passionate appeals from members of the Muslim community, who spoke about their dream of opening a school.
Mohammad Bora, who has been imam for almost 15 years, said: “This is our dream project – not for me, for generations [to come]. Every Muslim soul is affected by this project.”
And Mohammed Jogee, who said he was one of the youngest imams in Crawley told the meeting that demand for a faith school was very high given the nearest was more than 20 miles away.
He added: “There are many parents, many children, who want to study Islam and who want to learn further but are unable to.”
The meeting was told that the school would be privately funded using Mosque funds donated by the congregation.
And the suggestion was made that another site would be looked for if the application was refused.
Mr Jogee said: “Our dream is to expand and to have something better. If it’s not here we will always look somewhere else.
“Every single year and every single day we will always look forward to having something better.”
Planning officers laid out seven reasons why the plans should be refused, including concerns about parking, the loss of six protected trees, and overdevelopment of the site.
The issue of parking was one raised over and over by objectors, who described cars being parked across driveways and on double yellow lines during prayers and events at the Mosque.
There were concerns the school would only make things worse, even though an underground car park for 34 vehicles was included in the application.
Mr Bora pointed out that Friday prayers had been split into two sessions in an effort to ease the problem.
And he added that around 300 children had been attending early evening classes at the Mosque for years.
Despite support from both Henry Smith MP and council leader Peter Lamb, the committee was split.
Ian Irvine (Lab, Broadfield) said: “Whatever we do is not going to make everyone happy.”
Mr Irvine acknowledged there was clearly a ‘plan B’ in place to look for another site for the school and that the applicant had the right to appeal a refusal.
But he pointed out that the school would have an impact on residents – and they would have no right to appeal if the application was approved.
The vote was split five-five, leaving Richard Burrett (Con, Pound Hill North & Forge Wood) to break the tie, voting against the application.
He said: “Doing so gives me no pleasure because I feel very strongly that the Mosque community should be able to achieve what they describe as their dream project – and I really hope they’re able to do that.
“I would certainly do anything I can to support them in that.
“But reading through the report and listening to what’s been said – and having looked at the site – I just don’t believe that what’s proposed on this particular site at this particular time is acceptable in planning terms.”
To view the application in full, log on to planningregister.crawley.gov.uk and search for CR/2018/0064/FUL