16:20 Wednesday 15 January 2014

Muslim prayer and community centre planned for outskirts of Ely

Written byJORDAN DAY

The plans have been submitted to East Cambridgeshire District Council. The plans have been submitted to East Cambridgeshire District Council.

A vacant warehouse on the outskirts of Ely could be transformed into a Muslim community and prayer centre, Ely News can reveal.

The Ely Muslims group hit the headlines in 2011 when they announced they wanted to build a prayer centre in Ely.

An area of the Paradise Centre fields was highlighted as the most suitable location for the facility but, following opposition from local people, the idea was dropped.

Now the group wants to take over part of the former Aquarius Furniture warehouse on the Chettisham Business Park, in Lynn Road – and a formal planning application has been submitted to East Cambridgeshire District Council.

In a statement to the council, Ely resident Mr Shair Choudhury, the group’s leader, said: “The proposal is for the change of use of part of the warehouse unit into a community centre for the enjoyment of the local Muslim population who have lived and contributed to the economy of the area for many years.

“The Muslim community is aware that potentially this application could become controversial but it is hoped that the proposal will not cause any adverse issues with the relationship with adjoining users and occupants, and that the change of use to this building will be acceptable.

“The proposal presents an economically viable opportunity to create a meeting place for a community of approximately 65 people from a catchment area of Ely, Soham, Littleport and the surrounding villages, and will increase the potential for increased co-operation with the non-Muslim population.”

Muslims who live in the Ely area currently have to travel as far as Cambridge for cultural and religious celebrations, although for Friday prayers, the group hires a dance studio at Ely’s Paradise Centre.

But in his application, Mr Choudhury said: “Whilst gratitude is given to the management of the Paradise Centre, the space has been found to be unsuitable for the act of worship.

“However, a place for prayer is not the only requirement and there are many activities which the leaders would like to undertake to support the wider community.

“These activities include a meeting place for Muslims of all ages and genders, a space to provide and facilitate educational, social and recreational activities, an area in which to celebrate religious activities and cultural festivals and an information centre to illustrate the Muslim beliefs within the wider community.”

The proposals involve changing the use of a 280sqm area inside the warehouse – the rest would remain as warehouse and office space.

The agent in the application is John Goodge, of Lynn Road, Littleport.

A decision could be made within eight weeks.

To have your say on the plans, visit www.eastcambs.gov.uk.

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