Leyland mosque's expansion plans are put on hold

The operators of a mosque based in a residential property in Leyland have been told to rethink plans to extend it amid concern over the potential impact on nearby residents.

The building on Chapel Brow has functioned as a place of worship for almost a decade. Its owners have now applied for retrospective planning permission for that use - and to build a two-storey extension at the rear of the premises.

The rear of the properties on Chapel Brow in Leyland, which include the mosque

The rear of the properties on Chapel Brow in Leyland, which include the mosque

Members of South Ribble Borough Council’s planning committee were minded to confirm its status as a mosque, but deferred a decision over whether to allow it to expand after hearing from locals who said that it would have an “overbearing” effect on their own properties.

The six-metre deep extension would create a blank wall facing Fleetwood Road resident Tom Piel’s backyard and kitchen, which the committee heard would meet planning guidelines dictating minimum separation distances because of the "indirect relationship" between the two premises.

“This wall would blot out the sky and destroy my right to light,” said Mr. Peil, who stressed his good relationship with the mosque - and even wished its operators well before the meeting began.

“The guidelines ask [the committee to consider] how they would feel if their neighbour proposed something similar. I have no doubt we would all feel the same as me if our neighbour proposed a 30ft wall - devastated.”

Fellow resident Peter Flynn said that the backyards of terrace properties like his were the main amenity they had - and he also outlined concern over existing parking problems on the narrow Fleetwood Street.

Umar Hafiz from the Al-Ikhlas Islamic Centre told the committee that visitors attending the mosque were reminded to “be respectful about where they park”, adding that the venue wanted to work together with its neighbours.

Members were told that they were unable to separate the change of use application from the bid to build an extension - and planning officers recommended both for approval.

But Cllr Caroline Moon said that the committee had to show consistency, having refused a separate application elsewhere in the borough that raised similar issues last year.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service after councillors deferred their decision, Mr. Hafiz said: “We want something which will work for everybody and don’t want to cause any negativity - so if there's anything we can do to reduce that, that's what we will try and do."

Mr. Peil welcomed the delay and the request for a rethink.

“I fully approve of the change of use, because it has operated as a mosque for 10 years and they have been good neighbours - quiet, respectful, all the good adjectives.

“But the wall would be a mess,” he added.

The mosque is also proposing internal alterations which do not require separate planning permission. These would see the two-bedroomed property reconfigured to provide a hallway and toilet and shower rooms on the ground floor and an open plan meeting room on the first floor.

The failure to secure permission for the original change of use is not an offence and, after 10 years have passed, the council loses the power to insist that it reverts to its previous residential purpose - that deadline is coming up in September.

Prayers take place at the venue up to six times a day during winter months, with around 15 people attending its most popular prayer session - although that number rises to 40 on Fridays.