Change of plans at Eastwood high grounds

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A PROPOSAL to build a mosque on the former Eastwood high school grounds could be set for consultation after representations by council officials.

Currently, there is no place of worship for the Muslim community in Newton Mearns, despite demand for more than a decade.

Already this month, the Scottish government reporter overturned East Renfrewshire council’s decision on a similar centre in nearby Lanrig road.

After an application was originally denied by ERC because of noise and parking concerns, the report granted a temporary licence for the building, a former Royal British Legion hall, to be used as a place of worship.

The temporary licence will give the council three years to find a more appropriate site.

While a site in Maidenhill was originally earmarked, ERC has assured the Muslim community of a commitment to finding an appropriate location.

The reporter noted the need for a facility for the local Muslim community and the lack of any readily available alternative location for it.

Council leader Jim Fletcher told The Extra: “There has been pressure for a purpose-built mosque for some time and the Muslim community is entitled to a place of worship.

“We are conscious these things can be perceived as being controversial, which is why we are being as transparent as possible.

“The mosque would be a change to the local plan —so it would go to consultation.

“As the land at the school is council-owned, we would first need to agree to sell.”

The council organised a public meeting at Eastwood Park theatre on Wednesday night (as The Extra went to press) to discuss the proposals.

The plans have been met with mixed reaction from local residents and activists.

Grace McCarthy from Newton Mearns, who is a member of the parent council, told The Extra: “The site of the old school was supposed to be a second playing field, now there appears to be plans for a mosque.

“The space should be for the whole community, not just one section.

“We accept everybody has a right to a place of worship, but a mosque is not for the whole community, that is not the plan.

“The council has deceived us.”

However, Shaukat Ali, manager at the Woodfarm Educational trust — the first facility acquired by East Renfrewshire’s Muslim community to serve its religious, educational, cultural and social needs — believes Newton Mearns needs a mosque.

He argued: “At the Woodfarm facility, people have to pray outside because there isn’t enough room, while many have to commute into the centre of Glasgow.

“Every faith has their own spiritual needs and the council owes it to us to facilitiate plans for a mosque when there is a clear need.”

Newton Mearns councillor Jim Swift thinks the move has real benefits.

He argued: “The site will not add much in the way of traffic at key times of congestion and most of their religious worship will be outside school hours.

“Most people would consider this to be an excellent proposal, though there is, as yet, a lack of detail.”

Stewart Maxwell MSP thinks there is “no need to change the local plan”.

He said:”There is already an area at Maidenhill zoned for religious purposes and that is a better site than in the grounds of Eastwood high school.”

However, Eastwood MSP Ken Macintosh backs the move as a “vital place of worship and a facility which allows the community to come together”.

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