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Last Updated: Saturday, 14 October 2006, 14:46 GMT 15:46 UK
London: Case for a mega mosque
Zia Trench
Zia Trench
Politics Show London

Ali Mangera, the architect
Designs for a community

If you are a West Ham supporter, then the football stadium is the landmark building in this side of town.

But there are plans for something, architecturally, far more spectacular.

A 16 acre-site, owned by an Islamic sect, has been earmarked by the local council for community facilities.

At the moment, there is a temporary mosque there.

But architects have spent the last two years working on designs for a three storey mosque, parks, gardens, a school and other community facilities.

I met Ali Mangera, the architect, at his office in Clapham.

He showed me a 3D animation of the site.

The mosque itself is a stunning, space-age design and the grounds will allow for up to 30,000 visitors at any one time.

He told me that Newham is 25% Muslim and the most diverse borough in London and these facilities are for everyone.

He pointed out that the landowners would pay for this project, locals could use it and not a penny will have to come from taxpayers.

Open debate

But then I met a local councillor. He's from the Christian Peoples Alliance and lives a mile from the site.

He told me that he was worried this Islamic centre would change the local area and make it predominantly Muslim.

CAD screen and model
Grand designs, but not all agree

I had to ask him if he would feel the same if, say, a cathedral was planned instead.

He said this was not a matter of what religion, it was just that any decision to build this centre needed to be openly debated.

And there are two reasons for Councillor Alan Craig (and a few other critics) wanting an open debate.

The first, is because the decision for this will be made by a quango-style body, set up by central government to fast-track development of the entire East end of London.

It was not set up to spend time deliberating over cultural and social effects.

The second, is because, in recent times, there have been some reports about the landowners - Tablighi Jamaat.

Some terrorists have been linked to the Islamic sect, although the sect itself has always claimed to be non-political and non-violent.

The problem is, it does not speak to the media and so we know very little about it.

Plans are expected to be submitted by the end of the month.

Also on the programme... We look into the London Development Agency.

This is another quango-style body that gets 500m a year to regenerate London and tackle inequality of economic growth.

But a recent report by the government, finds that these regional development agencies have failed to make any real difference to the regions in which they operate.

And, London politicians have been looking at the grants the LDA makes, questioning why there is a need to give money to private companies such as Coca-cola or dormant companies that aren't trading.

Because they are elected, not accountable bodies, it is not that easy to get answers.

The Politics Show London

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