Opposition growing over Muslim centre
By Saiqa Chaudhari
ALMOST 200 people crowded a public meeting to oppose plans for a Muslim centre on their doorstep.
Bolton Community Educational Trust, a registered charity, wants to turn the former Middle Hulton police station in St Helens Road into a resource centre.
Plans include creation of a prayer room and an extension of the building, which was closed for police use in 2004.
The prayer area would open between 7am and 11pm daily, except in summer when it would open at dawn.
But at a meeting on Tuesday evening, residents claimed opening the centre would add to parking chaos in the area, create problems with noise and light from its floodlights.
The meeting was chaired by Ian Bullough, of nearby Sapling Street. He was joined by local councillors Andy Morgan and Phil Ashcroft.
Mr Bullough claimed the building would effectively be a mosque, although the trust says it would at times be available for training and activities for some non-Muslim groups.
The centre would have four parking spaces, along with an extra four in a bay in nearby Aldred Street.
But Mr Bullough said: "From the plans, I estimate there could be a potential 30 extra cars coming into the area at all times to use the building for prayer. There is not sufficient parking in the area."
He urged people to object to the plans and to attend a site visit by Bolton's planning councillors.
Lee Bromley, of Longfield Road, said: "The road I live in would also be affected by cars. There is a playing field on that road which children use."
Cllr Ashcroft backed the campaign, urging people to comment on the proposals before the February 25 deadline and elect a spokesman to address Bolton Council's planning and highways committee when the application is discussed in March.
He said: "There is already a community centre in the area open to everyone."
After the meeting, Mr Bullough said: "Ideally this building should be used to provide facilities for the young people in the area. They have nowhere to go."
Sharon Bowling, of Georgina Street, added: "The campaign is not against what the building is being used for but the problems it will cause.
"We will oppose any plans for that building which bring cars into this area."
No-one from Bolton Community Educational Trust was available for comment yesterday.
However, it describes its goals as to enhance Islam and to promote good race relations between racial groups, particularly between Muslims and other groups in the area.
In its application, the trust says the centre would create four jobs and would help women learn new skills to find work, provide homework classes for children, provide library facilities and help reduce anti-social behaviour.
It says: "The intention is that this facility is for the local community who currently take their children to other facilities using their cars and will not need to do so.
"The dropping off and collection of children will not in our opinion create a major traffic management issue."
1) Opposition growing over Muslim centre