This is a guest post by Broughton Parish Council in response to the approval of plans to build a mosque in North Preston.Advertisement
Broughton Parish Council (BPC) should and has always acted as a channel of local opinion to larger local government bodies and has a statutory right to be consulted on any planning decisions affecting the Parish.
BPC objects to the application to build a mosque on land to the south of D’Urton Lane for a number of reasons as it is wholly inappropriate for the proposed site and is not in the interests of the Broughton community.
BPC has sent in written objections at all stages of this application and has continually tried to keep dialogue open with the developers through their agent Alban Cassidy, Preston City Council planning officers and Lancashire County Council highways regarding this application, but with a planning committee which is weighted against our community, BPC felt that a fair and reasonable decision would not be forthcoming.
As such we expressed and reiterated our reasons for not supporting this application at Planning Committee on Thursday 3 February.
These reasons are listed below. Please note, they are not in any particular order as all are of equal importance:
Neighbourhood Plan: Broughton Parish Council have a ratified and agreed Neighbourhood plan, supported by and voted for the local community. Preston City Council is overruling this (Local Plan Policy EN1) in favour of the applicant. In response to the 2016 consultation no one mentioned a Mosque. This view was reiterated in the 2021 consultation.
Documented lack of need: There is no local need for a mosque, the census of 2011 and the neighbourhood plan show no demographic need or any requests for a new place of worship from any section of the parish community.
Excessive traffic and noise pollution: Traffic will exponentially rise in and around the village due to the number of vehicles accessing and leaving the site on a daily basis. With an expected five prayer sessions on Fridays and Festivals, resulting in a potential additional 300 incoming and outgoing journeys per session, this would create 10,500 additional journeys per week on a small rural lane with no turning circle or thoroughfare. This traffic will spill out onto the Eastway link road, bypass and motorway junction causing congestion and pollution.
Traffic survey: The independent and valid car occupancy survey by CTS has been refused admission into the process, although the applicants’ traffic plan has been accepted without any detailed review.
Over-development of the site: The site was sold by LCC for in excess of £600,000 with no planning permission. We have requested verification and documentation relating to the sale for a definitive answer on whether there were any existing or new restrictions on this site. This information must be available as the applicant refers to it in his submissions. In-fill on other land on the same road has been limited to housing developments. A large Mosque with 248 prayer mats and 150 parking spaces, which stands at the highest point 30 metres tall (plus a minaret), is not in any way appropriate.
Broughton Community: This would not be a community facility serving local people and has no discernible benefit to the existing local community in Broughton Parish. At the last census 99.2 per cent of the community were not Muslim and therefore there is no basis for a building of this nature.
Supplemental guidance: Preston City Council has no supplemental guidance on places of worship, meaning there is no coherent plan against which to make an assessment of needs as per other City Councils.
Integration: As there is no proven need within Broughton for any additional place of worship, building a large and overwhelming structure which cannot be utilised by 99.2 per cent of the community, and is directly in conflict with the wishes of the community, risks creating division.
Financial benefit: There is no financial benefit to the community, no jobs will be created within the village as a result of this build and no additional revenue will be created by those travelling to and from the centre in their vehicles on a timed visit.
External Sahn: This is an external courtyard of considerable size, this area is used as an additional prayer space. Thus any travel assessment cannot include the potential which may considerably increase again the numbers traveling to the Mosque.
Hours of opening: At no point has the applicant stated to the PCC planning team the expected hours of opening. This is an essential part of the application process which is clearly being overlooked. For those living on the road, this could mean vehicular activity 24/7 and would mean massive noise and environmental pollution.
Air Quality: At no point has an assessment been made to ascertain massive negative affect that the constant flow of additional vehicular journeys (est. approximately 546,000 journeys or more per year) will have on the roads and local residents health. High levels of vehicle fumes (diesel particulates etc) have been accepted as a high risk and exposure increases the risk of cancer.
Heritage: No heritage review or assessment is available on the portal even though requested. Neither Heritage England nor local heritage groups have been approached. Broughton’s history can be traced back to 896AD and the site has possible historic significance, with a rich history of Roman roads and sites in the area. So this development is completely out of keeping with this historic village and will overshadow the historic Grade II Listed church, old grammar school and cottage around which the local parish community has revolved for centuries.
Scale: The applicants agent and the council are in disagreement of whether the proposal is small scale or not. According to reports in the local paper this ‘Super Mosque’ is how it is being by viewed by the media and Preston residents – which clearly indicates it is far from small scale.
Drainage: Since the bypass has been completed there has been substantial increase in flooding, sewage back up and drainage in this area. This will only be made worse during the construction period with HGVs and other traffic accessing the site off the narrow cul-de-sac and steep access driveway. Residents on this road, on Garstang Road opposite and the church hamlet are in dispute with LCC regarding the highways drainage including recent and significant flooding issues. Any development on this site will rely upon the same unsuitable and overburdened drains solutions then the scale of this development will invariably cause further problems and irrecoverable damage to these houses and the Grade II Parish Church.
Factual inaccuracies in paperwork: Documents submitted by the applicant have multiple inaccuracies. For example a pivotal utilities report showing that the wrong site had been assessed was still accepted into the planning application and the inaccuracies accepted even when pointed out by BPC and our city Councillors. This report by KGA (UK) utilities services report talks clearly about another proposed development: “The proposed development consists of an extension to the existing food packaging and storage facility.“ Any such documents submitted with factual errors must be discounted and cannot be trusted as submitted.
Information access: On receipt of the report BPC asked to do a review of the letters received supporting and opposing this application to ascertain validity, as yet we have been unable to do this as the documents are scanned due to home working.
Core strategy: Preston City Council acknowledge that this application is in conflict with their Core Strategy Policy 1. It also conflicts with the Broughton Local Plan Policy EN1. Furthermore PCC recognise that Paragraph 12 of the National Design Guide and Framework stipulate that such conflicts should result in a refusal of planning permission. Despite this PCC recommended approval which will impose an unwanted, unneeded and damaging development on our community. Escalation: Rt Hon Ben Wallace our local MP agrees that this application needs to be reviewed by the Secretary of State, and has supported this ‘Calling in’ process. The fact that we have had to invoke this shows that as a community we are not being listened to by Preston City Council.
Public benefit statement Cassidy & Ashton on behalf of the developers: This document has not demonstrated that the public benefits of this proposed development meet the needs of the general public or even the needs of the small Muslim community in Broughton. Its statements are assertions and one sided views with nor verifiable or material back up.
Need for the proposed development
A survey has been undertaken of the number of Muslim families in the immediate surrounding area of the application site. There is no independent verification of this data nor any calibration of what locations were chosen to represent “the immediate surrounding area”. Is it a defined area? Is it a suitable basis for any assessment?
For PCC to accept such a submission on face value and then base a planning decision on such data is unprofessional. The applicant acknowledges that the families which would be served by the mosque would not be from Broughton Parish but would be from North Preston. Just because this site it available does not mean it is appropriate in location, scale, impacts on the local community or the environment especially traffic and flooding/drainage.
The report continually presents as if this is “evidence” when in fact it is not independently verified and thus is at best anecdotal information or simply a set of opinions based on the preferred assumptions of the writer. Even so this submission indicates only two households from Broughton would benefit.
Stating that this site is the “most accessible” location is simply incorrect. This site is accessed along a cul-de-sac and no other sites have been referenced for comparison. Thus the statement is meaningless and unprofessional. It is simply seeking to influence the reader into accepting the writer’s opinion as a fact.
There may indeed be a need for more facilities for the Muslim population of Preston but the scale and location of any such need is not substantiated or proven by the submission. Even if it were accepted as correct the need does not infer that this particular site and proposed design is an appropriate solution for that need.
What is not taken into account in any way is the potential negative impact on the current residents. An in-fill planning application as supposedly envisaged by LCC a number of years ago may have been for five or six “residential” houses. Taking six houses as a possible baseline and assuming even three cars at each that is 18 car parking spaces being used maybe two times per day where one use would represent two trips (one out and one in). This implies an extra 64 trips maximum in this cul-de-sac.
Instead, what is being proposed here is 150 car parking spaces being used potentially five times daily for attendance at prayers (10 trips per day) This is 1,500 total trips per day and with additional vehicle, pedestrian and cycle traffic all into and out of this dead-end road. The difference is a factor of more than 2,300 per cent.
Impact on the Parish Church hamlet
It is noted that local planning authorities should:
a) …avoid or minimise any conflict between the heritage asset’s conservation and any aspect of the proposal
b) …take account of:
What the PCC planning department have ignored is that there are existing significant problems with drainage and flooding which are adversely impacting the Grade II* listed Parish Church of St John the Baptist.
It is inconceivable that a new building of the size and scale proposed would not additionally burden the already overstretched highways drains and cause more surface water run-off which would impact Blundell Brook thus causing increased risk of flooding to the church and nearby residential houses.
Although the planning application does not directly impact the church it will cause increased flooding risk and in doing so will potentially negatively affect its existing use as a Parish Church which is a conflict with the Heritage Requirements.
The proposed new design of the Mosque was the winner of a recent competition. It can be assumed to be good as a concept although a substantial number of local residents can see no historical link or relevance to the historic Preston cotton trade or mills in the design.
It was a “clean sheet” design so it could be adapted to be built in any suitable location. There are potential locations around the North Preston area (certainly more sites that are not in a dead-end road and which will not impact on the Guild Wheel or cause flooding risk to a grade II* listed building).
As alternative sites are not identified in this submission, although alluded to it is of course only the opinion of the Applicant that this is the most appropriate site. It cannot be accepted as a demonstrable or verifiable claim and certainly is nowhere near the standards expected of credible “evidence”.
It is certain that known impacts on the Heritage buildings and additional risk to them should count against approval. The completely subjective nature of claims that the mosque would provide benefit cannot be measured and thus cannot outweigh the negative impact it would certainly have.
The applicant also states in para 3.5 that the Mosque would be “satisfying the need for a substantial part of the local population for which the demand will only grow”. If it does not meet the need and growth is expected how would it be catered for on this site? Would that be deliverable or practical given the constraints on space, traffic, drainage and of course the impacts on Heritage. If indeed the need is forecast to grow then surely a different and bigger alternative site elsewhere would be a more prudent approach to take? The very uncertainly that this statement engenders mitigates against a presumption in favour of the applicant.
It must be recognised that the Applicant states this is to satisfy a need for a “substantial” part of the local population yet does not mention that the vast majority of the local population (not being Muslim) would not benefit from the development in any respect whatsoever but would of course share the burden of the negative impacts on the area. In the 2011 census over 90 per cent of the parish were non-Muslim. On that basis the substantial part of the local population would see no benefits from this plan.
This Applicant statement has made many claims that it has tested the development proposals against the requirements of para. 202 of the NPPF. However most of what has been presented is a one sided view based on assertion and not backed up by verifiable data or comparisons. It has not demonstrated that the public benefits of the proposed development meet the needs of the general public or even of the small Muslim population in the “immediate local area” of north Preston and nor has it demonstrated that architectural qualities of the proposed design are such that they come anywhere close to outweighing the real harms and potential substantial additional risks to a Grade II* Heritage Asset.
Accordingly, the test of para. 202 remains unsatisfied and there are no demonstrated reasons to grant planning permission.
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