AROUND 130 residents voiced their opposition to a proposed mosque to be built on greenbelt land in Barking and Dagenham at a public meeting last Thursday (12 November).
Peter Harris, UKIP leader for Barking and Dagenham, organised the meeting at Eastbrook Pub to encourage people to air their views on the proposals for the former Sanofi site currently leased by the May and Baker Community Club from the Council, within the Eastbrook ward.
Mr Harris, who is also a trustee of the May and Baker Community Club, revealed that in a random survey of Eastbrook residents, out of a total of 1,488 answers, 1,285 were against (93 per cent), 85 were neutral (six per cent) and 18 were for (one per cent) the mosque.
At the meeting, residents voiced displeasure in using the sports community club for a purpose only utilised by a small minority of the ward. Eastbrook has the fewest Muslims of all Barking and Dagenham wards and residents felt if there was to be construction on the site, it should benefit the whole community.
Other criticisms reflected a fear the mosque would expand over time, increase traffic and adequate mosque provision was in the Borough already.
Mr Harris said: “One resident told me that the club is the May and Baker Eastbrook Community Club and they felt that if they ignored the views of the community, they should reconsider whether they should be still called this, because the overwhelming view of the community is that they simply do not want a mosque in this area.”
The May and Baker Trustees, without Mr Harris, had unanimously approved in principle the proposal from the Council on behalf of Barking Mosque at a meeting on 28 September which included Council leader Cllr Darren Rodwell.
It was hoped that the mosque could provide a useful rental income to the club.
The Council has subsequently claimed this is a matter for the Eastbrook Community Club trustees; however at this Monday’s meeting of the trustees, a request to add the results of the survey to the agenda was rejected.
The specific details of what was said with regards to the Club’s plans for the mosque have been blocked due to a gagging order; however Mr Harris expressed his concern that the trustees were not listening to the community.
Mr Harris said: “The decision not to listen to the residents is outrageous and makes me even more concerned about this hush hush deal that seems to be going on. I call upon my fellow trustees to listen to their views.”
He added: “Should they go ahead and submit this application, I have many names who have signed up and pledged support to an action group to fight and oppose this possible mosque.
“The residents are very angry and very upset that certain groups have suggested this and okayed this in principle.”
The public meeting invited several senior UKIP members, including Alan Craig, who lead the campaign against the Mega Mosque in Newham, Roger Gravett, UKIP London Regional Organiser and Peter Whittle, UKIP’s 2016 Mayoral Candidate for London.
Mr Whittle said: “I was so impressed with the huge turnout and this shows the strength of feeling there is about this suggestion of a mosque.
“People were very considered about it and just wanted to know the facts. There is a sense in which they’ve been kept in the dark.
“It goes to the root of what we are. Our policy in UKIP is that people should be given the chance to have a referendum on any large scale proposal for building.
“That’s not what happens at the moment, so it’s up to people to organise to make their voices heard by going to public meetings or forming action groups – peoples’ voices must be heard in these processes.”