Battle over ‘mosque’ plan for Canaletto’s Isle of Dogs view of Greenwich

Fr Tom Pyke, Rector of Christ Church, Isle of Dogs

Fr Tom Pyke, Rector of Christ Church, Isle of Dogs - Credit: Archant

A community centre proposed in a public park with its unique Canaletto view of Greenwich could turn out to be a full-time mosque instead, a church leader in London’s East End has warned.

Packed meeting launches Friends of Island Gardens

Packed meeting launches Friends of Island Gardens - Credit: Archant

The claim emerged at the launch of Friends of Island Gardens which is spearheading a campaign to protect the open space on the Isle of Dogs shoreline.

A request has been made to Tower Hamlets Council to build a centre on the ‘World Heritage’ site where Canaletto painted his classic view of Greenwich Royal Palace in 1750.

But the Dean of Christchurch and St Luke’s on the Isle of Dogs called for those behind the request to “be honest” about what the building would really be used for.

“These groups who use our churches for prayer meetings want them five times a day and I can’t say yes,” the Rev Tom Pyle told the launch.

“They’re going to crowd out any other use for the building because in winter the first prayer is 8.30am and the last at 4pm. No other use is going to be possible because it squeezes out other activities like youth clubs or coffee mornings.

“This application is about prayer space. The centre simply becomes a place where that group has to monopolise — I think they should be honest about that.”

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More than 100 protesters packed the meeting at Poplar Rowing Club following 2,100 letters that have been sent to the Town Hall demanding the application be rejected. They maintain there are already many community centres on the Isle of Dogs.

Tower Hamlets Tory Group leader Peter Golds told the meeting: “The application is for prayer facilities with separate entrance for men and women. Those making the application call themselves a community group—but they want to run a mosque.”

Protesters were not against Mslem prayer, they pointed out, only the encroachment on the park.

Tory Cllr Gloria Thienel said: “Nobody should be allowed to build in the park whoever they are. We will fight tooth and nail to stop it.”

The campaigners are looking into covenants they say protect the Gardens which has been a public park since 1840.