12:38pm Friday 16th November 2012
By Lawrence Dunhill
A MOSQUE leader says he was shocked by a council’s refusal of plans to transform an old Totteridge pub into a religious education centre.
Dozens of residents had opposed the scheme for the former Iron Duke pub, and planning councillors at Wycombe District Council agreed the change would cause too many parking and traffic problems in the Totteridge Road area.
This decision went against the recommendation of council officers, who had negotiated on several aspects of the plan with Wycombe Islamic Mission [WIM], which made the application.
WIM want to use the building as an educational centre affiliated with the nearby Townfield House Mosque - as well as occasional use for funeral mourners.
Chairman Sajid Ali said: “We were pretty certain we were going to get planning for this building because it’s just a wasted property stood there empty.... All the Muslim community was shocked.
“We want to bring it into use and help the local community there. Anybody could use it....it’s not just for the Muslim community.
“We have to take this into a committee meeting and decide what we are going to do next.”
Asked whether WIM are likely to keep trying for planning permission Mr Ali said: “Obviously we bought the building and what are we going to do with it? We are going to try our best.”
He argued the change of use would not have brought extra cars into the area, as the centre was intended to be used by children while their parents are at the Townfield House Mosque.
However, Wednesday’s council meeting heard several complaints about the existing traffic and parking problems around Totteridge Road – especially when prayers are held at the mosque on Fridays.
A representative from Red Kite Community Housing spoke out against the plan on behalf of Parsonage Close residents.
And Isobel Zajer, also speaking on behalf of residents, said: “The negative feeling is generated by the situation we experience.....serious problems with parking, congestion and unsafe driving.”
Ward councillors Roger Colomb and Tony Green also urged members to reject the scheme and slammed the applicant’s ‘Green Travel Plan’ – which the council had requested to help reduce the number of car journeys.
Cllr Colomb told the meeting: “The applicants have had well over a year to do the travel plan, but all their advisors have come up with is a list of ideas they might like to try out....which for some reason our officers refer to as detailed measures.”
And Cllr Green added: “Why isn’t the car sharing done now...there’s an existing problem. Why hasn’t that already been implemented?
“According to this it would be easy to do. I’m not being deliberately rude about this but I have to say it’s not worth the paper it’s written on.”
Michael Gurney, of application agent MGA Architects, said: “They [WIM] have produced a Green Travel Plan. It’s a fact that this type of plan works very well for parents of children in schools in a great deal of the country.”
Though he acknowledged the users of the mosque “clearly haven’t helped this application” he said the existing parking problems are another issue that needs to be dealt with separately.
However, a majority of councillors backed a proposal to refuse the application from Cllr Steve Lacey, who said the scheme would cause an unacceptable impact on parking and traffic.
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