Planning has always been a bizarre process and last night’s Planning Meeting was no exception. To a packed out public gallery and council chamber how much of the absurdity of the process may not have been clear! First up was the change of use for the Gala Bingo Hall (Use Class D2) in Lea Bridge Road. By a unanimous decision it was agreed the use can be changed to a place of worship (Use Class D1/D2) to allow the Potters House church to take it over and move out of their existing cramped premises. Cllr Siggers (Tory) even said “there were no planning grounds to turn it down”
So why is it the Granada(EMD) cannot be used as a place of worship – a battle that has raged with the UKCG for a decade!
Next came the horrendous mess that is currently the International Muslim Movement’s mosque at 12 East Avenue adjacent to Walthamstow Village Conservation Area. The owners have been abusing the planning process since 2008 when they were given permission for a second floor (2008/0832). When building work started it was higher than approved and work was stopped. Last night the committee agreed the new plans (2012/1284) were acceptable despite the second floor being even larger than the original. The building has been a real eyesore for many years and there has been no penalty put on the developer so they have made a mockery of the whole process. The committee again were unanimous in approving the plans, despite a general agreement that the design of the mosque will not blend in to its surroundings.
Application 2012/0776 was to turn a corner shop at 274 Higham Hill Road into a muslim education centre. One of the local councillors spoke in favour and another gave very good planning reasons why it should be rejected. Local opponents explained the building was already being used illegally and it was not large enough for the proposed use and the fear was that it would try to become a mosque by default. Another St.Mary’s road debacle started to loom. The Planning Officer was proposing acceptance but all the councillors but one were against his proposal and would not support the motion. A motion to reject it was proposed and seconded (as is the way with the Planning Committee) and it was rejected by 6:1. It turned out Councillor Mahmood, who was standing in for Cllr Bellamy, said nothing but abstained. No explanation for why he thought it necessary to abstain!
By this time it was 9.15 and there were another 4 items to go and the public gallery was nearly empty so I went home!