Muslim centre opponent reveals BNP membership
PLANNING COMMITTEE UNANIMOUS IN VOTING THROUGH APPLICATION TO CONVERT FORMER PUB
A LEADING objector to a scheme for a new Muslim centre has revealed himself as a member of the British National Party.
Ray Dawkins said the application was the “creep” of Sharia Law but his hopes of it being rejected by councillors were crushed.
Planning committee members last week voted 11-0 in favour of the scheme for Ashford’s former South Eastern Tavern in Torrington Road.
Mr Dawkins, who lives in Cuckoo Lane, told the meeting: “I am before you today to voice an objection to this application as a local resident, a Christian and a member of the British National Party.
“I object to the designation of the building in this application as a meeting place/ cultural centre.
“This is political terminology to hide the truth and allow the insidious creep of Sharia Law into our British Society.
“I ask you to reject this application because it has far reaching precedents and to keep faith with the good relationship of the indigenous population of the area.”
When he continued to make remarks concerning Islam, planning chairman Cllr Jane Marriott (Con) told him to stick to planning arguments.
He went on to say that the regular arrival of groups of people to the centre for prayer would cause disturbance to nearby residents.
Applicant Shafi Khan, of the Ashford Asian Society, had said that the centre would help steer people away from radicalisation and stress that Islam does not teach terrorism.
Mr Dawkins said: “As yet we are unaware that there has been any threat of terrorism in this area.
“Local residents suggest a better use of the premises would be as a home for the elderly of our community. It is a very plausible idea worthy of consideration.”
Mr Dawkins had raised the concern that summer prayer times would be as early as 4.30am, causing disturbance to neighbours.
But Mr Khan agreed that could be changed to 8am.
He said training workshops would be available for police and local authorities and added: “We hope people will understand Islam better than what has been portrayed in the media.”
Cllr Jill Hutchinson (Con) said: “We are living in a very difficult world at the moment. To understand another belief might help us.
“I believe it is something that should be allowed.”
Council leader Cllr Paul Clokie (Con) said that churches were making similar changes – such as St Mary’s in Ashford – adding: “There is no reason why we should say no.”
A petition against the centre was signed by 155 people and eight letters of objection were sent to the council.
But planning officers recommended approval, saying visitors to the centre would be no more numerous than those visiting if it was still a pub.
Cllr Allen Wells (Lab) said of the new centre: “The noise will be less than the heavy metal I’ve heard from there.”
See comment, page 10
Objector Ray Dawkins
An application to turn the South Eastern Tavern into a Muslim centre has been approved