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Fury over plans for Islamic community centre in Island Gardens World Heritage site

PUBLISHED: 14:31 07 June 2013 | UPDATED: 17:48 07 June 2013

The view across the river to Greenwich from Island Gardens

The view across the river to Greenwich from Island Gardens

Archant

Plans to build an Islamic community centre on a World Heritage site have been met with fury amid fears one of east London's most famous waterfront views could be spoiled.

An application for the building, in Grade II listed Island Gardens on the Isle of Dogs - recognised for its breathtaking views of Greenwich's Old Royal Naval College - has been submitted to Tower Hamlets Council.

But while the proposal purports to benefit "all sections of the community" it makes clear that "peoples of the Muslim faith and ethnic minorities will be of primary focus".

There will also be a separate entrance hall for women "who would usually shy away from the presence of men".

The application, lodged by a Mr Abdul Hannan of Manchester Road on the Isle of Dogs, has triggered huge opposition. More than 600 people - including those from as far afield as Moscow and Canada - have signed an online petition warning the plans would "degrade and diminish" the site's historical importance, with 300 more signing paper petitions.

In a letter to planning chiefs, Tower Hamlets Tory leader Cllr Peter Golds wrote: "The applicants, far from providing a facility for the whole community, are actually building religious premises in a public park, which has been available to all the public for over 170 years."

But residents and councillors insist their opposition is not just to the religious use of the building.

Blackwall and Cubitt Town Cllr Gloria Thienel, who is among those leading the campaign to block the application, said: "It's not ours to give away. The objection is to anything being built, whoever it's for.

"This is not racial at all," she added.

A spokesman for Tower Hamlets Council said any development would have to avoid any "adverse impact on the special character of the surrounding area."

Planning officers are currently considering the application and consulting the public before reaching a final decision.

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