Group faces backlash over Smethwick mosque scheme
A proposed mosque has seen a local Muslim group embroiled in a planning row for the second time in two years.
The scheme planned for Smethwick has led to hundreds of comments on a community Facebook page saying it will cause serious traffic problems.
But the Gambian Islamic Centre has said fears its proposed community centre and mosque on Bearwood Road would lead to parking chaos are unfounded.
Lamin Yaffa, the group’s chairman, defended the application which is asking permission to convert a former solicitor’s office on into a place of worship, which could accommodate 250 people.
More than 400 comments have appeared on the Bearwood page against the plans.
Clare Bragg said: “To accommodate that many people will just cause even more chaos and traffic jams. And sadly a lot of people will just park wherever they can, regardless whether they should or not.”
Terry Jessop said: “Well everyone at the moment complains about parking as it is, can you imagine how bad it will be, let’s say 250 do pray Friday, and 100 use cars, where can I ask do they expect to park.”
Other posts pointed out that in 2016, the Gambian Islamic Centre was ordered to close its former mosque on Windmill Lane, Cape Hill because of parking problems.
Lamin Yaffa said fears over parking had been overstated. He said: “Smethwick is our home and our followers live in and around this area, so many of them will walk to or use public transport to come to pray.
“The busiest time will be Friday prayers but we don’t see 50 or 60 cars turning up to block local roads and during the rest of the week we expect maybe only ten to 15 people a day using the centre.”
The planning application states there would be parking on site for six cars but he said the centre plans to increase that to 15.
At the weekend, he explained, the building would serve as an education centre giving additional tuition to children.
Offering to speak with local people over their concerns, he added: “Smethwick is also our community and we live and work beside its residents. If they have concerns then contact us and we can talk about our plans and what we hope to do.”
The planning application is expected to be heard by Sandwell Council’s planning committee in October.