A council which refused to sell land for a new mosque has been criticised for its handling of the case. Ribble Valley Borough Council provoked anger when it refused the application in Clitheroe, Lancashire, in 2004. Local Government Ombudsman Anne Seex investigated a claim that the decision was taken in response to racially motivated opposition in the area.
An application was made to buy some council-owned land for a mosque in September 2004, but was met with opposition. The British National Party was active in the area and two Muslim men were racially abused by members of the public at a council meeting on the issue. Lancashire Police apologised after its officers failed to intervene and paid £5,000 to the town’s Medina Islamic Education Centre, which the men represented.
The council deferred a decision until it had received a report on the impact of the proposal on the “social well-being” of local residents. But the planning committee decided to use the entire site for elderly people’s accommodation – even though the district valuer said the authority would make more money through the mosque plan.
Mrs Seex criticised the council for not following accepted good practice and reaching a decision that was not supported by the information the committee was supplied with.