Despite objections, Ely Muslims continue to press for warehouse to become new centre for prayers and community use
11:10 11 August 2014
Updated plans for a community centre for East Cambridgeshire’s Muslim population have continued to attract criticism from neighbours.
Shair Choudhury, of the Ely Muslim Association, applied back in June to convert part of a warehouse, in Chettisham Business Park, into a community and education centre.
An earlier application, submitted in December last year, was withdrawn in April, the applicants said, on the advice of planning officers because a number of queries raised about the plans could not be “satisfactorily addressed”.
But neighbours of the proposed centre have re-stated their objections to the new plans, saying that they are not suitable for the business park.
Gary Hartwig, managing director of Packwell Ltd, told planners: “We strongly object to a change of use of these areas because it would conflict with storage, distribution and manufacturing companies on this industrial estate.
“We are concerned primarily due to health and safety risks for our company and all others on the estate.”
And the City of Ely Council said: “The council supports the objectives of the applicant but has concerns regarding access into the site, amount of parking available, the suitability of the disabled access and no allowance for future expansion.”
In a statement to planning officials at East Cambridgeshire District Council, the applicants said: “For cultural and religious affairs the community must travel as far as Cambridge which causes hardship and inconvenience and this has emphasised the need for a more local facility.
“For Friday prayers, a dance classroom has been hired on an hourly basis at the Paradise Centre in Ely and, whilst gratitude is given to the management of the centre, the space has been found to be unsuitable for the act of worship.
“However, a place for prayer is not the only requirement and there are many activities which the leaders would like to undertake to support the wider community.”
The applicants are proposing that the centre should be open from 9am-9pm every day of the week from October to April and from 9am-11pm every day of the week from May to September.