Barnet’s Labor advisers accused local Tory officials of “Islamophobia” for the postponement of a planning request for change of use for Golders Green racetrack.
Barnet Labor Group chief Cllr Barry Rawlings also confirmed to Jewish News that he is “referring the whole episode” to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) for investigation.
Planning officials had previously recommended approval of the Islamic Center on behalf of the Markaz El Tathgheef el-Eslami group.
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But at Monday night’s meeting, the conservative chair of the strategic planning committee suggested that the request be postponed for more traffic information and the travel and event management plan so members can vote on them. .
Critics of the postponement decision say comprehensive plans for the fire escapes and travel arrangements were all part of the planning committee’s previous report.
Cllr Barry Rawlings said: “The way Barnet Council handled this request is shameful, with completely unnecessary delays and bogus requests for additional information.
“They clearly treated this Muslim organization in a different way from other religious organizations and most people will see that – and the shameful postponement of the request last night – for what it is, Islamophobia.
“The actions of the Council and the Conservative administration mock the recent update of the Council’s policy on equality, diversity and inclusion, and its so-called zero tolerance policy against racism.
“I’m going to send the whole episode back to the Equality and Human Rights Commission for investigation.”
The Markaz, a Shia Muslim organization made up of refugees who fled persecution in Iraq, was asked to provide a travel plan and an event management plan for worshipers using the venue, although the number of attendees instead is only around 150 most weeks, with a cap of 500 on participants with the exception of 10 high holy days where 1,400 are allowed.
This is significantly lower than the 3,000 people allowed at events when the racetrack was a concert hall and a church.
The Christian organization in the previous occupation of the Hippodrome was not required to provide a travel plan to mitigate parking or an event management plan.
Barnet’s council is considering special additional parking for another religious organization just a 5-minute walk from the racetrack.
The Markaz had already sent a pre-action letter to the Council following delays in determining the claim over the past year, alleging religious discrimination.
Asked to comment on Monday’s meeting, Cllr Eva Greenspan, Chair of Barnet’s Board Strategic Planning Committee, said: “Last night the Strategic Planning Committee voted to postpone final decision making on the application to the racetrack, pending further details from the applicant. .
“We look forward to the application being further considered in the fall.”
Childs Hill and Barnet & Camden AM union adviser Anne Clarke said: “The Markaz bought the racetrack in good faith, they wanted a center for their refugee community and should have had the same welcome as any other group. confessional in Barnet.
“Despite the treatment they received from the Barnet Council, they have always warmly welcomed the wider community to the space.
“This planning meeting should have marked the end of years of uncertainty, but Barnet Tories decided to defer and delay the request instead. Shame on them.”
A representative of Golders Green Residents Environment (GGREG) said he welcomed the decision by Barnet advisers to delay decision making “until Markaz does what he has resisted to date and produce travel, transportation, noise and crowd control plans. “
The group also claimed: “Markaz and their supporters have repeatedly sought to turn religion into a factor in this candidacy.
“But to be clear, local residents are not opposing the users of the Hippodrome at all, but they are opposing the proposed increase in use and the impact it will have on traffic, parking, local equipment and the loss of the Hippodrome. “