Originally posted online at Run of the Millfield, a hyperlocal news website focused on the Millfield suburb of Sunderland, on March 6th, 2013
The Mayor of Sunderland has labelled the controversial decision to convert a transport depot into a mosque as “correct” despite continued protests from right-wing groups.
The decision to build the mosque has sparked fury and protests in Millfield over the past few months.
Warren Faulkener, a member of the North East Infidels, told Run of the Millfield in February that residents “had said they were scared of noise problems, parking issues and the fact that the majority of the locals in that area are elderly”.
But a Millfield resident has branded the protests “stupid”, saying they do nothing but “divide the community”.
Cllr Iain Kay, a Millfield Ward councillor, told Run of the Millfield: “Some residents have complained about the new mosque but their objections were heard in the planning process.
“Councillors decided that planning permission was correct in this case for a mosque to be built. This is an area next to a busy supermarket and just off a busy Hylton Road that has traffic 24/7.
“People in this area are generally well adjusted to noise and parking issues,” Kay said. “The mosque has plans for a car park that will be more than adequate for their needs.”
But Alan Spence – the North East regional organiser of the EDL – insists that there are other issues, saying: “We think that it is a disgrace that the residents’ objections to the proposed mosque in Millfield have been totally ignored by the council.
“It’s not just about noise and parking issues – the residents do not want another mosque on their doorstep.
“Councillors should learn to listen to residents instead of ignoring them.
“All around the North East the local community is constantly ignored when an application for a mosque or Islamic centre is submitted. We have seen it in Newcastle regarding Benwell Towers as well as Shotton Colliery regarding the Melrose Arms, not to mention the Boosbeck Halal slaughterhouse.”
Spence, who was jailed for seven months in December 2011 for an attack on a socialist meeting, told Sky at the start of this year that the EDL were opposed to the conversion of Benwell Towers – the former setting for TV series Byker Grove – into a faith school for Muslims because it will not “integrate itself in the community”.
In December 2012, the EDL protested over the Melrose Arms pub being turned into a Muslim education centre, while hundreds of Boosbeck villagers protested at the end of 2011 over proposals to re-open an abattoir as a Halal slaughterhouse.
“It seems to us that no matter what the Muslim community want – they get,” Spence said. “We want the council to take notice of the local community and stop appeasing Muslims by granting them everything they ask for.
“Millfield does not want nor need another mosque,” added Spence.
Last weekend, the Northern Patriotic Front – another right-wing group who oppose the construction of the mosque – protested at the site on St Marks Road. Only 11 NPF members turned up to the protest, but a few residents accepted leaflets from passers-by.
Millfield resident Aisha Hussain, though, has branded the protests as “stupid”, saying: “They shouldn’t be protesting against a mosque that has been approved by the council. There’s no harm in it.
“People wouldn’t be bothered about noise if it was anything else. It’s solely because it is a mosque. This mosque will be built whether people like it or not.
“I just fail to see the reason for the ongoing protest. It’s dividing people in communities and it’s just stupid,” added Ms. Hussain.
There is currently a mosque on Chester Road, around the corner from the proposed Millfield construction, which has prompted many to question the need for another mosque in such a small area.
But applicant Coneil Bashir has insisted in the past that the mosques serve different purposes, and Cllr Kay says: “The existing mosque serves mostly a British Bangladeshi clientele while the new mosque will be for British Pakistani Muslims but also have better facilities for women and families that the Chester Road mosque lacks.
“Millfield is a real mix of faiths and cultures and this new mosque simply represents the ambitions of the British Pakistani community to have a proper place of their own in the area where many of them live and work.”
The EDL, North East Infidels, Scottish Defence League and Yorkshire Defence League will join forces to protest against the construction of the Millfield mosque in a regional demo on March 30 – the day before Easter Sunday.