'We were outflanked': Sudbury man wins High Court battle over mosques on either side of his house
PUBLISHED: 07:00 01 August 2019
"That's when we realised we were being outflanked - a mosque on both sides."
Khalid Ikram has lived in Harrow Road, Sudbury, for 31 years, but he and his family have spent the last decade increasingly concerned by the expansion of an Islamic charity on - literally - either side of their home.
The International Islamic Link (IIL) charity bought 856-858 Harrow Road in the 2007 and converted it to a place of worship and community centre.
Then they bought number 852, and tried to do the same thing.
Brent Council slapped an enforcement order on the second property which would have stopped it operating as a mosque, but an appeal saw this overturned by the Planning Inspectorate (PI).
In response, Khalid decided to challenge the PI's decision in the High Court.
And now, he and his family are celebrating after Mrs Justice Lang overturned the decision and ruled in favour of Khalid's application for judicial and statutory review of the PI's decision.
This means that retrospective planning permission is no longer in place, pending an appeal.
It sounds convoluted but basically means that, unless anyone lodges an appeal against the High Court decision, the case will be given back to the PI, which will have to re-examine the case and appoint a different inspector to make a decision.
IIL runs the Babul Murad Centre at 856-858 Harrow Road. After several planning rejections, it was granted retrospective planning permission for a number of changes to the site - including a large extension to house a library.
It has also now been officially designated a place of worship for eight years.
Despite this, in the course of the planning dispute about its second property, IIL argued that the Babul Murad Centre does not operate as a mosque and is primarily a community centre.
This is because at the High Court lawyers for IIL argued the new Masjid Imam Ali mosque at 852 was necessary because the closest mosque serving Urdu-speaking Shia Muslims was six miles away in Stanmore.
After the judgment was handed down on July 17, Khalid told this newspaper about living through what he described as a "residential nightmare".
He said: "When it happened at 852, we just throught: 'We're being swamped.' It was looking like they would try to build a super-mosque."
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He said the issue was not one of religion, but of planning law and how local people were disadvantaged.
He added: "It's been a real struggle."
In her ruling, Mrs Justice Lang ruled in favour of Khalid on the basis that the planning inspector had "erred in failing to assess the planning issues arising from the use of the area outside the mosque",
She added that because the inspector had only considered the application in relation to the mosque itself, he had incorrectly limited his decision and had not considered the consequences for use of the outbuildings and surrounding area.
Khalid told this newspaper his family had grown increasingly worried at the changes around their home over the past decade.
Of the first application, he said: "They built an extension, a new kitchen - we had no knowledge of what was going on."
Khalid blames his neighbours for an increase in rats in the area too.
He said: "I have been there 31 years, we have had very little problem with rats, but since they put a kitchen up, it's really increased."
Khalid said the support of local groups such as the Sudbury Town Residents' Association (STRA) had been a huge help: "STRA has been hugely helpful. Everybody has sent letters, everyone has come together in the community." He said it had been difficult because it had been clear IIL had experience navigating planning matters.
"Clearly, this was an organisation that knew what it was doing and how to get what they want," he said. "Now we're just waiting for the next step.
"I don't know what enforcement looks like, but it's what we're hoping for."
The Planning Inspectorate is now weighing up whether or not to seek leave to appeal the High Court ruling.
A PI spokesperson said: "We can confirm that the claims for statutory review and judicial review were granted by the High Court.
"We are considering whether to seek leave to appeal the judgment.
"If leave to appeal the judgement is not approved the case will be returned to the Planning Inspectorate for redetermination."
IIL has not responded to this newspaper's requests for comment.