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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 December 2006, 13:32 GMT
Council decides on town's mosque
Former chapel in Clitheroe
The chapel could be used as a multi-faith community centre
A decision is to be made on whether a former Methodist church in Lancashire will be converted into a mosque.

The Medina Education Trust hopes to use the former chapel at Mount Vale, Clitheroe, as a multi-faith community centre if the plan gets the go ahead.

The Trust has submitted a number of applications to convert a house in Holden Street into a place of prayer but all have been refused.

It also applied to buy council land in the town but requests were rejected.

Council criticised

When the Trust sought to buy a former council depot at Kirkmoor so that they could build a mosque, the council decided to use the site for a mix of elderly people's and sheltered accommodation and affordable housing for families.

The decision was made even though the district valuer said the authority would make more money through the mosque plan.

Local Government Ombudsman Anne Seex investigated the case and criticised the council for not following accepted good practice.

She said the council had reached a decision that was not supported by the information with which the councillors had been supplied.

Ms Seex ordered the authority to pay the unnamed complainant 250 for his trouble in pursuing the complaint, but concluded that the decision not to sell was not unreasonable.

Decision due

The decision on the site at Mount Vale is due to be made on Thursday evening.

Ribble Valley Borough Council planning officers have recommended the application for approval, subject to a range of conditions, but it will be up to elected councillors sitting on the planning committee to make the final decision.

They can only reject the application if there are strong planning grounds for refusal, and must not be swayed by any other non-planning issues.

Sheraz Arshad, secretary of the town's Medina Islamic Education Centre, said that seven previous attempts to find premises to house a mosque had been rejected by the council.

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