Plans for flats at former Jami Mosque in Southsea may 'create permanent division' in Portsmouth's Muslim community

HIGHLY-CONTROVERSIAL plans, which opponents have warned would ‘create permanent division’ within Portsmouth’s Muslim community, have been narrowly approved by councillors.

By Josh Wright
Wednesday, 15th June 2022, 9:40 pm
Updated Wednesday, 15th June 2022, 9:41 pm

Portsmouth City Council's planning committee agreed to grant permission for the conversion of the upper floor of the former Jami Mosque building in Marmion Road into flats on Wednesday through the casting vote of its chairman, despite hundreds of people opposing the scheme.

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The application to convert the first-floor prayer hall of what was the first ever mosque in the city into three flats was submitted by the management committee of the mosque in a bid to secure its financial future.

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The Jami Mosque in Marmion Road, Southsea

The building has since been converted into a madrasa but it has been unused for several years due to the subsequent opening of other madrasas elsewhere in the city.

This decline in student numbers, it said, had led to 'financial difficulties' for the mosque and that the creation of flats would help its long-term sustainability.

Speaking at Wednesday's planning committee meeting, Iqbal Miah, a member of the mosque committee, said the development would help keep it as ‘a thriving community’.

‘We are united in our primary objective of seeing this mosque return to its former glory as a vibrant place of worship, education and community events’ he said. ‘By converting the first floor of the property into residential units, the mosque will be able to generate a regular stream of income.

‘This will enable major necessary refurbishments to take place in the short term, and in the long term the income will enable the mosque to maintain daily activities.’

But opponents have urged the mosque to abandon its plan and to protect the whole building for use by the Muslim community.

A petition signed more than 850 times warned it created a ‘major risk’ that the building, which it said was ‘a much loved and necessary community building’, could be lost forever.

Abdul Basith, one of the co-owners of the madrasa, said the project was a ‘betrayal’ of the Muslim community and would ‘create permanent division’.

‘There is an overwhelming need for the use of this building,’ he said on Wednesday. ‘There are seven mosques in Portsmouth but only three have planning permission - people are using these out of desperation and it has created a lot of problems with neighbours and lawyers.’

Despite these concerns, and opposition from council highways officers over the lack of parking, the planning committee was recommended to grant planning permission.

‘The proposed development is considered to be in accordance with the relevant development plan policies and it would contribute to the council's five-year housing supply.’ a report said. ‘It [would] provide a good standard of living accommodation of an appropriate design and would have no significant adverse effect on local amenity.'

Agreeing with this advice, councillor Hugh Mason said: ‘We’re in a position where we must make a decision on the grounds of planning law.

‘There is quite clearly a division within the Islamic community in this city as to whether there should be a change of use but this is not something which is within our competence to adjudicate.’