Council debates mosque plans

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Chipping Norton town council has registered its opposition to plans to convert a retail property in the town centre into a small mosque.

At a council meeting last Monday (January 21) councillors raised a number of objections to the application which would see the ground floor of a retail unit at Hitchmans Mews at 2 West Street converted into a place of worship for West Oxfordshire’s Muslim community.

As an interim measure the community has been holding well-attended Friday prayers in the town hall but worshippers now want their own mosque in order to hold short daily prayer sessions.

Councillors raised a number of objections on planning grounds and many who fought hard against the recent London Road Sainsbury’s application fear the loss of a viable retail unit.

Addressing the meeting, councillor Alex Corfield said: “Their [The Muslim Community’s] numbers have risen and they are now attracting members from across west Oxfordshire.

“The shop unit is only 30 square metres and only a third of the size of the town hall and not fit or large enough to accommodate their present needs.”

He added: “There are other buildings in the town which are of a sensible size which they could more readily use.

“The building has an established retail and commercial use and we have spent three years defending the local shops in the town.”

Councillor David Lydiat took a more favourable view of the application.

“If the building is empty it needs to be filled,” he said.

The town council agreed to forward its comments to West Oxfordshire District Council which will discuss the plans at its Uplands Area Planning Committee meeting next Monday (February 4).

Planning officers have recommended the plans for provisional approval. The plans and comments can be viewed at