A controversial proposal to create a mosque in London Colney – which provoked objections from around 180 residents – was rejected at a planning meeting last night, with councillors keen to prevent the far right British National Party scoring political points on the back of the issue.
Residents turned out in force to oppose an Islamic Centre in the village, citing parking, traffic issues, road safety and noise as the prime objections.
Members of the Bangladeshi community, who also attended to hear the decision, had applied to change the use of Cemex House in Barnet Road, close to Riverside Industrial Estate, to accommodate up to 50 worshippers. But residents feared the facility would attract more visitors than indicated in the application, and that numbers could not be controlled. After hearing representations from both parties, councillors sitting on the district council's plans south committee refused the application, despite recommendations from an inspector to approve the proposals.
But district councillor Dreda Gordon, who represents London Colney ward, stole an opportunity to scupper the BNP's political campaign while opposing the plans on behalf of residents. She said the extremist party, which is seeking to gain a foothold in the village, had used the dispute as a golden ticket to canvass support. London Colney is a tolerant community and over the years it has accommodated people from many ethnic back grounds," she said.
"These various groups made London Colney their home. They raised their children there, we are a culturally diverse community. People have worked and lived alongside each other in this area. I don't want decent and tolerate people branded with loathsome politics of the far right which have raised their ugly head on this issue."
But speaking to the Review after the meeting, actor Philip Madoc, who has lived in Waterside for 30 years, said: “The reasons aren’t biased, they’re logical. I’m not interested in whether it’s a mosque, or a synagogue or a big Welsh chapel, it is of no interest to me. It’s an establishment in the silliest place. The village is a delightful place and old London Colney has got character. This summer has been the best I have ever seen it. It’s a glorious place and we want to preserve that or improve that. I hope that it will be as is.”
The application follows years of failed attempts to establish a mosque in the village to serve the Muslim community, who currently congregate at the Morris Playing Fields Pavillion. Fahim Karim, Chairman of London Colney’s Islamic Centre, said: “We are disappointed and we are disheartened. There was no planning issue, they had to scratch to find a planning excuse. They refused it with no grounds. We are going to appeal and then someone outside the district will decide.”
BNP member Danny Seabrook, who is vying for a seat on London Colney Parish Council following the death of Robin Cooper, insisted the planning decision would not derail his party's election campaign. Mr Seabrook, 37, whose party has been accused of inciting racial hatred after distributing 'offensive' leaflets to homes in the village, insisted his focus, if elected, would be the proposed railfreight terminal in Radlett.
St Albans and Harpenden Review