The Need for a new mosque

We recognise that this new scheme had created a great deal of interest and there is a mixture of truths, half truths and clear misunderstandings about the nature and impact of the proposed development. Accordingly, we have put together this short note to summarise some of the key matters relating to the current scheme.

Masjid e Salaam was established in 1996 through the efforts of local Muslim residents of Fulwood Preston albeit a few in numbers. Since its formation it has grown considerably both in its physical size and activities. Located in the multicultural neighbourhood of Fulwood a suburb of Preston, the Mosque has good links with all religious groups in the area and is proud to be the centre of inter- community relations.

Unsuitability of Current Building:

The current Mosque has a Prayer hall which sits in a former bar and a dance hall. This is very cramped and given the history of this room, highly inappropriate for religious use.

The Planning Inspectorate in her report agreed that the current building is not suitable or convenient for worshippers at present. You will appreciate that worship requires an appropriate setting. The new development will allow the provision of a spacious prayer hall that will provide a suitable setting for prayer. Unfortunately, neither the current building nor the previous scheme facilitated a setting of an appropriate nature for a religious activity.

The New Building Will Replace and Improve:

The new building will be truly inclusive, sustainable and respectful of the neighbourhood whilst maintaining the elements that people perceive as traditional, as the mosque must have meaning for the people that use it as well as being a symbol of Islamic tradition. The intention is to construct the new building with high quality materials to ensure that it stands the test of time and is a significant improvement over the current building.

A key aspect of the Mosque design lies in the close working relationship with the architect and his aesthetic and cultural vision. As there are no actual requirements of what a mosque needs to be, other than the prayer being oriented towards Mecca. It is important to refer to elements that people perceive as traditional, as the mosque must have meaning for the people that use it as well as being a symbol of Islamic tradition and above all it must have a resonance for these users and meet their practical and symbolic needs. The traditional elements of the dome and minarets have been retained, reinterpreted and designed as part of the overall formal dynamic of the building. The main element of the Mosque which fronts Watling St Rd will be the five arched opening spanning two storeys’ of which the central arch will provide the access point to the Mosque. These five arches reflect a central tenet of Islamic teachings and culture representing the Five Pillars of Islam whilst also providing a central feature of the design concept. The overall design aims to sensitively develop the site within the context of the surrounding area, with particular reference to Fulwood Conservation Area, in order to provide a modern community facility that is fit for its intended use but identifies itself as an Islamic building.

Lower Density Development:

The previous planning permission related to a site area of 0.17ha hectares, of which a total of 27% would be developed. The current scheme is for a development site of 0.34 hectares, of which 23.3% will be developed.

Increased Quantity and Quality of Landscaping:

The new scheme has been the subject of extensive revisions and amendments, following discussions with the planning and design officers. This resulted in the provision of additional landscaping, a reduction in scale, and the setting back of the building 8 metres from Watling Street Road together with revisions to the car parking layout. The current layout simply has a strip of landscaping from the boundary with Watling Street Road. The new scheme proposes significantly more landscaping including a total of 24.8% of the entire site, compared to 3.3% for the previous approval. Compared to the current situation, where the site is dominated by tarmac, this is a substantial improvement. As an example of the extent of landscaping currently proposed if the percentage of landscaping was similar to the previous approval on this site, this could increase the number of car parking spaces by about 20. However, in consultation with planning officers, we have reduced the number of spaces to facilitate this increased landscaping..

Long Term Extra Parking:

Although not part of the planning permission, it is worth noting that there has been an agreement with Adstock who are the owners of Preston Business Centre in respect of the use of their spaces for the last 3 years. This has now been confirmed through a formal lease agreement with Adstock for 20 car park spaces in addition to the substantial area of publically available pay and display spaces within this area. There are generally approximately 50 to 100 spaces available at any one time. These 20 extra spaces are above and beyond the requirement for the number of worshipers. The availability of the extra car parking on the opposite side of Watling Street Road is an area that will never be redeveloped as it provides an important element and setting of a listed building

We therefore ask for your support.

Overall, we consider that this planning approval now addresses all of the issues that have been raised and represents a wonderful opportunity to show that Preston can accommodate new good developments to enhance both a conservation area and to meet the needs of its multi-cultural residents.