DIVIDED councillors refused plans to turn part of a house into a place of worship for the Windsor Muslim Association (WMA).

Plans to convert part of a house on Ruddles Pool, Maidenhead Road, Windsor into a prayer hall with 11 car parking spaces and 14 cycle storage spaces split councillors during the Royal Borough Development Management Panel on October 21 (Wednesday).

The small community centre would’ve held five daily prayers, after school clubs running from Monday to Thursday, children’s language school on Saturdays and Friday sermons as well as other events and celebrations.

No external works would’ve been needed, and a residential flat would’ve been created on the first floor.

The site lies within a green belt area and planning officers recommended to refuse the plans due to the parking spaces, adding that it would be an “intensification” of the site.

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Objectors to the plans were concerned about the increase of traffic and disturbance on the A308 corridor and that the classes and events would cause a disturbance to ‘quiet’ neighbouring properties.

Campaigners emphasised that their objections have nothing do to with race or religion.

Former Royal Borough councillor George Bathurst, who spoke as a public speaker, pleaded members to approve the plans as the WMA have been “badly misunderstood” and they’ve been trying to find a fixed place to meet for more than a decade.

He also argued this application “easily” falls under special circumstances for it to be approved on green belt – adding that the property will only undergo a change of use rather than be demolished.

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Concerns were also raised cyclists coming to the site would be a hazard to pedestrians and motorists – but planning officers said there is a cycle lane nearby, but not a lane that goes directly to the site to mitigate the potential issue.

In favour of the plans, councillor Neil Knowles (Old Windsor Residents’ Association: Old Windsor) said he rejected the idea this is a ‘quiet leafy suburb’ as the A308 is already a busy road with other shops and community facilities and that parking and increased traffic won’t greatly impact nearby homes.

He said: “I can’t find in my heart anything really that says that this isn’t a good application and a good place to do what the community intends to do.”

He added: “I think this community will do their best to be good neighbours and this will not be an issue going forward.”

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Cllr Knowles also said this application would protect the green belt as its only a change of use rather than demolition works, protecting it from overdevelopment.

Councillor David Hilton (Conservative: Ascot and Sunninghill) – who voted to refuse the application – was concerned the WWA will grow in numbers if the plans were approved and believed it was inappropriate for a community facility to exist in a residential area.

During the votes, councillors were split on approving or refusing the application where the chairman’s vote, councillor Phil Haseler (Conservative: Cox Green), had the final say – which was to refuse the plans.

There were four members for approval, four against, and one abstention.