Pland to convert the former Smith and Nephew factory in Brierfield into a Muslim girls’ school have provoked widespread opposition. Brierfield’s Mayor, Michael Sutcliff, has spoken out against the plan.Town councillor Marie Starkie also voiced her disapproval. Pendle MP Gordon Prentice has lambasted the proposal. And a leading Pendle BNP councillor has condemned the idea in a letter to this newspaper.
Birmingham-based charity Islamic Help is planning to take over the mill and use it as the Pendle Boarding School for Girls. It is estimated as many as 5,000 students would attend the school if the plans came to fruition.
Mr Sutcliff says in a letter the school would lead to Pendle being faced with “a real problem”. He says: “The local education authority has spent millions of pounds on two new schools in Pendle, one of them in Brierfield, and millions on a new college in Burnley, and this pops up. It doesn’t make sense and it wants kicking into the long grass very quickly. It is funded, I rather think, for people with a lot of sand and oil whose way of thinking doesn’t fit in with very few people here.”
British National Party councillor Brian Parker said the school and an Islamic college proposed for Burnley were not needed. “Quite apart from anyone’s view on the desirability of having two communities living side by side with little in common and divided by religion, the sheer scale of these proposals make them unsuited to our two towns.
“Six and a half thousand young women will make up a very significant proportion of the entire population. Over the years, some will doubtless settle and like any other university those over the age of 18 will be entitled to vote, affecting the political make up of the councils and even who will be the MPs. One would like a little more information about the nature of the education intended to be provided by these colleges and why Muslims wish to be educated apart from the rest of us,” he said in a letter jointly signed by John Rowe, the BNP’s prospective Parliamentary candidate in Burnley.