Islamic centre opposed

Plans to open an Islamic cultural centre in a Tyneside town are being opposed over fears it could be targeted by extremists and bring house prices down.

North Tyneside councillors will consider the bid on Tuesday to turn a dance school in Percy Gardens, Whitley Bay, into the centre. Uses would include daily prayer sessions, Qur’anic, Bangla, English-speaking and computer classes.

A total of 56 objections have been sent to planning chiefs, for reasons that include fears that the centre could be a target for extremists, devaluation of surrounding properties, increased traffic, congestion, parking problems, noise and disturbance. At a public meeting attended by around 100 people, concerns were raised over traffic and that the use was not appropriate for a residential area.

The large, semi-detached property is currently used partly as a home and dance school, operating on three nights a week and weekends, with classes ranging from 12 to 30 dancers. The Islamic centre bid would see the lounge converted into a classroom, the dance studios converted into a second classroom, prayer room, dressing room and first floor home for a caretaker.

The proposal has come from the Islamic Cultural centre which is operating above a parade of shops at Abbotsford Park in Whitley Bay. The centre says that the proposed premises would be attended by around 50 people a week, with most arriving on foot.

But planners say that the change would involve an intensification of use, with the centre operating seven days a week and activities taking place up to 10pm. They are recommending refusal on the grounds of increased traffic and parking, noise and disturbance.

A plan to use the Dorset Hotel in Victoria Avenue, Whitley Bay, as an international language school, in term times, is recommended for approval.

ic Newcastle, 26 August 2006