Residents on the Isle of Dogs are campaigning against building an Islamic Community Centre on a Grade II listed park which overlooks the unique World Heritage Site at Greenwich.
A planning application has been filed with Tower Hamlets Council to build the community centre in a portakabin on Island Gardens Park, a conservation area, which is on the opposite side of the Thames from the Greenwich complex of renownded 17th and 18th Century buildings.
The park, an open space since the 19th Century, sits at the bottom of the ‘U’ shape of the Isle of Dogs and is the site of the modern day view of Greenwich featured in Canaletto’s famous 18th century painting, ‘A View of Greenwich from the River’. The park is in the World Heritage Site ‘buffer zone’ designed to protect such sites from encroaching development and is said to have one of the best but least well known views in London.
The application made by Abdul Hannan of Manchester Road on the Isle of Dogs has been submitted on behalf of the newly registered Island Gardens Community Association. However locals are concerned that the proposed Islamic centre, a portable cabin with brick cladding, may not be in keeping with the local heritage of the area.
The Association has promised it will offer a range of service to all member of the community regardless of faith affiliations – tuition and homework classes, employment workshops, advice on domestic violence and drugs. The centre also says it will “reduce the financial burden on the local council.”
The planning application says: “We feel that this is an opportunity to make a contribution towards social welfare activities that target the poor and needy.”
Despite the centre’s promises to provide community services, currently over 200 written objections have been submitted to Tower Hamlets Council and an on-going online petition has so far collected over 600 signatures in opposition. Campaigners are understood to have considered taking the petition to Downing Street.
Joanne Bird, a local resident said: “The council are sinking the Island and its small infrastructure with over development, let alone the Islamic Centre being a threat to our conservation area. I am very angry.”
Blackwall and Cubitt Town Conservative Councillor Gloria Thienel, who is campaigning against the centre told ELL: “In the 40 years I have lived here [Isle of Dogs] I haven’t seen so much objection to something by the islanders.”
Thienel added: ”I don’t care who wants to build on it, we should be leaving this for the coming generations. This is by no means racial.”
The local community objects to the destruction of a conservation site and claim it will have implications for the tourist economy. They say it will increase traffic congestion and reduce the availability of parking spaces that are usually occupied by school buses and tourists.
In their application, the Association say the park Park would be a suitable location due to the proximity of local transport, assuming that a limited number of visitors will use their vehicles.
The park is a designated metropolitan space owned by Tower Hamlets Council but anyone is free to apply for planning permission at the cost of a £1500 application fee.
The World Heritage Site at Greenwich is a cluster of buildings that include Christopher Wren’s former Royal Naval College, the Queen’s House, designed by Inigo Jones, the Greenwich Observatory and the surrounding Royal Park. The UNESCO description of why the site is listed can be read here