LONDON (Reuters) - Plans to build Britain’s biggest mosque have been halted because the Islamic sect behind the huge project failed to meet a planning application deadline, the authority in charge of the land’s development said on Monday.
The intended construction project at a site in east London, dubbed the “mega-mosque” by the press, has caused controversy since 2007 when its ambitious design plans were first aired.
At the time, some 48,000 local people signed a petition to stop the mosque being built at Abbey Mills in Stratford, in the poorer east end of the city which has a large Asian community. It is on the site of a former chemical works.
UK media reported the complex, situated south of the 2012 Olympics park, would be able to accommodate 12,000 worshipers, making the mosque one of the largest in Europe.
The government has been focussing efforts on trying to prevent young British Muslims from being radicalised by violent Islamists.
Fearful that it could be fostering home-grown militants it has banned some groups it labels extremist and turned to moderate Muslim organisations and the general public to help tackle the threat.
Britain is also keen to show it is clamping down on Islamist radicals after a Nigerian who studied in London tried to blow up a plane flying to the United States on Christmas Day.
Last week the government said it would outlaw an Islamist group, Islam4UK, that provoked anger with a plan to march through a town where British troops killed in Afghanistan are honoured.
British police have been on high alert after four young British-born Islamists carried out suicide bombings on London’s transport network in July 2005 killing 52 people.
Newham council said the sect, Tablighi Jamaat, which owns the land through a trust was “encouraged to submit a long-term strategy for the site” whose land the council says is important to the local community and must benefit the public.
A spokesman for the local government authority said temporary planning permission for the site originally expired in 2006, but that in good faith the trust was given an extension until January 2010 to comply and submit its long-awaited masterplan.
He said that no such plan has been received and that the trust, which has set up a makeshift mosque on the land, has been operating illegally on the grounds since 2006.
The council said the movement has been warned that it must leave the site and dismantle its place of worship by Thursday of this week or the authority would seek “an enforcement action” through the courts.
“If at the end of a compliance period the occupants are still operating we can look to prosecute as it becomes a criminal offence,” Newham council said in a statement.
Tablighi Jamaat, which reportedly has 80 million followers worldwide and adheres to a strict interpretation of Islam, could not be reached for comment.
Editing by Jon Hemming