Saturday, 8 June 2013

A Mosque in Worcester Park? by KS

A Mosque in Worcester Park?
Hate Crime in Worcester Park?

A second attempt has been made to gain planning permission for the old Bank Chambers in Worcester Park to be used as a Mosque.

A Muslim businessman from Teddington has made the application for the building to be used as a place of worship for up to 25 people. When the original application was made I registered my objection on the basis of traffic congestion. Worcester Park High Street is already heavily congested, and there is scarcely enough parking space. I told the planning committee that I would also object to the building being used as a church or synagogue or temple. This is simply the wrong place for a community building. The first application was turned down on that basis. The second application includes the installation of cycle racks, and a commitment to encouraging worshippers to not arrive by car. Many people, myself included, are sceptical about this and we have yet to see how the second application proceeds.

sutton guardian

However some of the responses by local people - on Twitter, and other media - have got nothing to do with concerns about traffic flow. This planning application has brought to the surface deep hatred of Muslims, immigrants and people of colour within our local community. This week a swastika was painted on the doors of the building. To be clear, the planning application didn't create these darker attitudes; it simply served to expose them.

Community relations, especially in an area like ours with people drawn from so many cultures, is not a subject for either naivety or dogmatism. It is complex. Living with difference, valuing difference, is something which takes time and conversation. Any movement forward has to be based on trust which has come from knowledge, understanding and mutual respect. Unrealistic ideals and unworldly aspirations will sabotage this as much as fear and prejudice.

If we want to improve this situation, if we want to create and foster a community based on mutual respect where all people of goodwill can flourish, we need to begin with ourselves. We - I - need to examine ourselves and discern what motivates us. Christians hold very dear the saying of Jesus: 'you shall know the truth and the truth will set you free'. When we begin to see and address the truth about ourselves, then change starts to happen. Disguising racist and other dark attitudes will get us nowhere good.

 We might still choose to object to the creation of a mosque in the Bank Chambers (or not), but we need to know what is truly going on inside us.


  1. I have no objection to this application. My place of worship has only space for 5 or 6 cars, and puts out a sign for 'disabled parking' only, before every service. This means that worshippers either use alternative means of transport or they park in nearby residential streets. I am certain this upsets local residents near the church at times.
    When bank chambers in Green Lane was in use as a bank, it would have been in use 5 or 6 days each week, with more than 25 customers daily presumably, and I don't recall gridlock because of it. I hardly think that worship on a Friday will have a significant impact on traffic flow in Central Road. Notice that Worcester Park does not have a road called "High Street". In my experience commuters quickly learn to adapt their routes to avoid bottlenecks.

    1. Sorry David, you're absolutely right. 'High Street' was a generic term.

    2. The semi-rural location of St John’s church is completely different to that of a high street in a town. (In this case Central Road.)

      Up until the late 1960’s people could be seen walking to St. John’s for services. As society prospered over the last forty years cars were purchased and used in favour of walking for local journeys.

      St John’s shared parking spaces, which have in the past served weekday businesses in the Manor House, along with the Sunday congregation, became in ever greater demand; hence the disabled sign use.

      Most of the local roads to the church were built with off street parking for one car, but again prosperity has brought change resulting in a huge increase in car ownership and street parking. Local railway stations add to the high demand for street parking.

      The houses in Longfellow Road, Pembury Ave, Caverleigh Way (Green Lane Estate) were not built with off street parking.

      As I recall Bank Chambers was not a bank, and the clue is in its name, (additional offices for the bank to use). If you look at the ‘Kingfish’ building architecture, materials used, entrance doors complete with a stone heraldic motif over the door was typical of bank premises and in this case was the Midland and later Lloyds bank. The building appears to be of one storey only, unusual for a bank.
      At the time, restrictions on street parking, and a bus route were still to come to Green Lane.

      Bank Chambers were later occupied by Solicitors upstairs and greengrocers below.
      Bank Chambers offers only one possible parking place on the premises. Users of the proposed mosque are not likely to cycle as the local community itself has not adopted cycling as a means of transport.

      The railway bridges dictate the bottlenecks, and ‘through traffic’ combining with the increasing numbers of residents, (latterly ‘The Hamptons’), and the school runs, generate plenty of congestion at this time, without adding to it at the Green Lane junction.

      Ways round the congestion have been exhausted over the last twenty years, as experienced by all recently during the utilities and resurfacing works.