Society criticises plans to demolish Surrey Islamic Centre
The former primary school building is locally listed and in a Conservation Area but the owners have applied to demolish it and build a new mosque on the site.
Surrey Heath Borough Council is meeting later this month to decide the fate of the Islamic Centre on London road in Camberley.
The owners want to demolish the building, formerly a Roman Catholic primary school and now the M.A.Al-Kharafi Islamic Centre, in order to build a new mosque on the site. But the existing building is locally listed and in a Conservation Area.
Government planning guidelines mean applications to demolish buildings in Conservation Areas need specific consent, and they can only be approved if they are seen to preserve and enhance the character of the area.
'The current mosque is in a distinctive and attractive Victorian building that is robust and adaptable' said Heloise Brown, Conservation Adviser for the Victorian Society. ‘It also forms part of a group with the listed church, the neighbouring school buildings and the TA centre. Conservation Areas are designated to protect such clusters of buildings and this area will be not enhanced by knocking down one of the group.'
She added, 'the former school has also been locally listed by Surrey Heath precisely because it is significant; demolishing it would be a terrible waste.'
The rear of the site is relatively undeveloped and the Society believes that extending the existing building would give the Muslim community additional space and would also be a more sustainable option.
Last month it appeared that councillors had already given the go-ahead to the scheme, voting 10 to four in favour of the new mosque. But the decision fell foul of planning procedures and the application will now be re-decided at a specially convened full council meeting.
The school, formerly known as St Gregory's Roman Catholic Primary School was constructed in the 1890s on a site donated by the staff college. The drill hall (now the TA centre) is of a similar date. All the buildings lie inside the Royal Military Academy/Staff College/London Road Conservation Area.
The application to demolish has been submitted by the Bengali Welfare Association, which has owned the site since 1996.
Tuesday 16 February, 2010