Yes to Cumbernauld's first mosque

Councillors back it 16 votes to four

A PROPOSAL for Cumbernauld's first mosque got the go-head from North Lanarkshire Council's planning committee on Tuesday.

Councillors were meeting in Motherwell and their decision came through just too late to update the front page report on the controversial issue in this week's Cumbernauld News.

The councillors voted 16-4 to back the mosque project.

There had been 40 objections to the proposal and Craigmarloch Community Council launched a campaign to scupper the project.

But an attempt to recruit a high-profile supporter for their campaign backfired badly.

They contacted Cumbernauld and Kilsyth MP Rosemary McKenna. But far from backing them, she decided to urge North Lanarkshire Council to grant permisssion.

Planning offficials had in any case recommended granting permission to the project by the Islamic Education Trust (Cumbernauld).

The objectors felt the proposed mosque and education centre, east of Craighalbert Way, near the Craighalbert Christian Centre, was unsuitable for various reasons.

The opposition of the newly formed Craigmarloch Community Council formed the basis of a front page report in last week's Cumbernauld News and this sparked some angry reactions.

A summary of those complaints can be found in the November 13 issue of the News along with a clarification of the newspaper's position on the controversy. Some correspondents wrongly gained the impression that the News was against the project.

Some objectors said they were worried about increased traffic on Eastfield Road and noise from the Islamic call to prayer.

It was also suggested that the site conflicts with the so-called Town Park plan, aimed at preserving green space in that area. The council says the area is not a greenbelt site.

One objector said the building would worry residents "due to recent world events".

The Craigmarloch council claimed the Islamic design would be out of character with the area.

It contacted MP Mrs McKenna looking for support. But her reaction was to write to North Lanarkshire Council urging them to grant permission. She said: " It has always been part of the town's natural development to accommodate the needs of a wide variety of people and we have always prided ourself on being inclusive of different lifestyles and beliefs.

``As MP, I am very aware and supportive of the community activity carried out by those of the Muslim faith. I am proud that we have become a multi-cultural community."

Mohammad Saeed, secretary of the local Islamic Trust, has lived in Cumbernauld for 25 years. He recently met members of the Craighalbert Christian Centre to try and allay concerns.

He said : ``I think there is a lack of understanding what the plans are about. This will just be an ordinary mosque just like a church. There will be no loudspeakers and although there may be about 200 people in the mosque it is only one person who prays (out loud)."

He does not believe the mosque will cause parking problems for the Craighalbert Christian Centre and said if any problems did arise between the two centres of worship, he would be pleased to discuss these in an open-minded fashion at any time.

Mr Saeed believes a building which is so architectually distinct will be an asset to the area. He said:``The church and the Craighalbert Centre aren't really like the rest of the buildings either. We just want a place to worship."

Craigmarloch council vice-chairperson Maria Murray said their opposition was not racist or sectarian as some critics have suggested over the past few days. She said: ``Our phone poll registered 80 to 90 percent against these plans but not once did anyone mention race or religion.

``Our main objection is that this development would take place on land that was involved in the town park plans and we would oppose ANY development in this part of Cumbernauld.

"Just because it's a mosque that's involved, it's almost as if we are not allowed to express our democratic opinion."

Westerwood, Carrickstone and Dullatur councillor Gordon Murray said: ``I am in favour of every minority group having the right to express its position. I am also in favour of such groups being given suitable areas of land below the commercial rate to establish halls or other facilities where they can pursue their lawful interests.

``This does not mean however that any minority group has the right to get planning permission for a specific piece of land which was offered, subject to planning permission, at well below the site value if that site is developed as the minority group wish, the result is to limit the proper development of the town park, especially if that is not welcomed by the local community."

Cumbernauld and Kilsyth MSP Cathie Craigie said: ``The application is a matter for the local authority to consider. It is apparent that some sections of the community have concerns and the planning process allows them fully to express their views and objections."