Local BBC Sites

Neighbouring Sites

Page last updated at 13:42 GMT, Monday, 7 September 2009 14:42 UK
The building behind the Camberley Mosque row
Man with prayer mat

Members of the local Bengali association say their existing prayer building does not meet the needs of the growing Muslim community

A Bengali association in Camberley is hoping to get permission to demolish the locally listed St Gregory's Roman Catholic school building in the town.

The members have applied to the council for planning permission to knock down the Victorian building and build a large mosque on the land.

They say the existing building does not meet the needs of the growing local Muslim community.

Local historians and residents are fighting against the plans.

They argue that the town's heritage must be protected.

Council bosses in Surrey Heath made what campaigners call an unprecedented move by originally approving plans for the new mosque and rejecting advice from their own planning officers.

We will have maximum satisfaction of going to a mosque and doing our prayers
Abdul Wasay Chowdury - Project Manager

The school was built in the Yorktown area in the 1860's on a plot of land donated by the Royal Military Academy.

It was originally home to Yorktown Infants and Primary Schools, before later becoming St Gregory's Roman Catholic school.

When the school closed the building was sold to the Berkshire, Hampshire & Surrey Bengali Welfare Association who have been using it as an Islamic Centre since 1996.

They say it no longer meets their needs and they would like to be able to worship in a mosque and not in a school. They also want to build more facilities for women, as at present there are none.

They have submitted plans to demolish the existing building and erect a purpose built mosque with a domed roof and two minarets, on the site.

However, the old school is one of the borough's 330 locally listed buildings.

The list is made up of residential, commercial and public buildings which are either of local architectural or historic significance.

Although the listed status does not automatically protect these buildings, the council website states "they should be protected and retained whenever possible."

"When they are located within a conservation area, they are afforded some degree of statutory protection."

The Shah Jehan mosque
Nearby Woking is home to the country's first mosque , built in 1889, by a Hungarian Dr Gottlieb Wilhelm Leitner
The Shah Jahan mosque was built on the site of the Royal Dramatic College
The mosque fell briefly into disuse between 1900 and 1912 but was revived by the Indian lawyer Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din
Until the '50's Woking was the pre-eminent centre of Islam in the country

The site in question is located within the Royal Military Academy Conservation Area which means a special planning application has had to be made.

Local historian Ken Clarke opposes the plans. He says that if historic buildings are not protected now, there will soon be nothing left to reflect the town's Victorian and Edwardian heritage.

Over time, the town has lost many of its older buildings due to redevelopment.

And several more have been left empty, as proposed development plans don't meet new rules regarding building in the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area.

He is urging the Bengali community to use their existing facilities.

Surrey Heath Borough Council confirm the full council planning meeting to make final decisions on both Camberley mosque planning applications is to take place on Wednesday 10 March 2010 in The Camberley Theatre at 7pm.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific