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Cambridge mosque given permission to expand and extend its hours despite concerns

A Cambridge mosque has been given permission to expand again after the first approval was quashed following a judicial review.

The Shah Jalal Islamic Centre, in Darwin Drive, applied to build a two-storey extension and increase the maximum number of people who can use it at any one time to 29, or 37 on Friday afternoons.

The Shah Jalal Islamic Centre in Darwin Drive, Cambridge
The Shah Jalal Islamic Centre in Darwin Drive, Cambridge

The extension was intended to provided a prayer space for women on the ground floor, as well as a library and community meeting area. On the first floor the additional space was proposed as a place to live for the Imam.

Additional opening hours were also requested until 11pm, with a 30-minute opening for morning prayer between 2.50am and 7am.

Cambridge City Council approved the plans in December last year but the decision was quashed following a judicial review, at which a “material error” with one of the conditions of approval was identified.

The planning committee re-examined the plans last Wednesday (October 6). The application had been recommended for refusal by planning officers following an objection from environmental health.

A report said: “The application site is in a residential area. Consequently, the use of the site and the building is not considered appropriate for any further intensification of their use.

“The mitigation measures being proposed to overcome harm are not considered appropriate or sufficiently robust to overcome the identified [harm] to the amenity of the neighbouring properties.”

Objections had been raised by some neighbours, and at the meeting argued that allowing the longer hours would lead to noise disturbance to neighbours at times when “people should be able to sleep”.

They warned they changes would “damage the residential character of the street” and highlighted that a nearby community centre had to close at 10pm, arguing the “same rules should apply to all community rooms in the area”.

A representative of the Shah-Jalal Islamic Centre highlighted that the application had been previously approved and further details had since been provided, including a report that noted there would be “minimal noise disruption”, particularly given the reason for visiting the mosque.

Councillors were happy with the two-storey extension proposed, but had questions over the opening hours.

Cllr Katie Thornburrow (Lab, Petersfield) said there would need to be a “robust management plan” if more people visited.

Cllr Katie Porrer (Lib Dem, Market) suggested concerns over noise could be managed through “robust conditions” and a time limited trial.

Councillors granted permission for the extra hours for a year, after which a further application will have to be submitted to the city council to make the changes permanent.

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