Council rejects bid to retain unauthorised mosque

The house at Mincloon which is being used as a mosque.

Galway City Council has rejected an attempt to retain a controversial mosque which was built without planning permission in Mincloon.

Planners said the building – which has been mired in controversy since 2010 and served with several Enforcement and Warning Notices by the Council – adversely impact the rural area and neighbouring residents, that it is a substandard development and if allowed to remain in place, would cause a serious traffic and pedestrian hazard.

The owners of the house, Dr Saud Bajwa and Molon Bazlul Haque of the Western Islamic Cultural Centre, had sought permission to retain the use of the property as a place of worship by the Muslim community, to construct a weather porch to the front, and to mark off 16 car parking spaces.

They pointed out that the 2017-23 City Development Plan provides for the use of the house as a place of congregation and worship.

However, planners rejected the retention application, ruling that the place of worship would adversely impact upon the high quality rural and residential amenities because of noise from visitors, traffic and parking.

In his report, Executive Planner John Doody wrote: “There have been numerous inspections by the Planning Enforcement Section over a number of years which highlight an overflow of parking onto the adjacent rural roadway.”

The planning decision added that the basement living accommodation is substandard and the lack of glazing and direct sunlight “due to the subterranean nature of the basement” would permit an unacceptable living environment and establish an unacceptable precedent.

Planners also said that the narrow Letteragh Road, combined with limited capacity on other roads and limited parking would “impact adversely upon traffic and pedestrian safety in the area and thereby result in a serious traffic hazard”.

The Council said that the building is in close proximity to the Barna Stream and the applicants had failed to demonstrate the suitability of the site for the treatment and disposal of effluent – therefore it would be likely to create conditions prejudicial to public health.

There were five objections and submissions to the retention application, which mainly concerned the ongoing unauthorised use of the buildings as a place of assembly/worship and an “extremely high” level of cars.

“The suggestion that the use of the building as a place of worship/assembly is ancillary to a dwelling house is incorrect, the primary use is as a place of worship involving, at times, a large number of persons, meeting a number of times throughout the day.

“People currently arrive during the night and day ranging from 5am to 2am, which results in noise of cars day and night, generating disturbance in what is a quiet rural location

“The use of a loudspeaker at some meetings results in excessive noise, there is concern regarding the potential for the use of this loudspeaker at all meetings.

“The adjacent site is owned by the applicant and also used for parking cars,” the objections read.

The planning report notes that in 2010, refusal was recommended for the retention of a semi-basement and other changes to the house, but this was not accepted by the Director of Services for Planning, who issued a direction to issue a grant of planning.

In 2010, the Council’s Enforcement Section visited the site and found what was being built was vastly different from the single-storey house granted permission a year previously – this included an unauthorised basement living area, and a garage area had no garage door and was being partitioned into a number of rooms.

The Enforcement Officer also noted that the building had a “generous supply of electrical cabling”.

A warning letter and Enforcement Notice followed, and planning permission to regularise some of the changes to the development was subsequently sought and approved.

However, in 2013, there were further complaints to the Enforcement Section and an inspection found the rear of the property had been tarmacadamed for a carpark, a high timber fence had been built and the basement area contained bedrooms, a living area and kitchen, rather than the ‘study’ shown on drawings.

A further warning letter was served by the Council.

During discussions on the Draft City Development Plan (now passed) last December, there were 17 submissions made on proposals to vary the Development Plan to allow for a mosque on the site. Following a heated row in the chamber, councillors voted 11-7 to make the change – against the advice of Council officials.

The alteration to the Development Plan paved the way for the current planning application to be considered by city planners.

The decision is expected to be appealed to An Bord Pleanála.