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Delay to Markaz decision is "discriminatory, illiberal and unjust"

July 20, 2021 5:42 PM

Barnet Liberal Democrats have attacked the decision to delay a decision on the Markaz in Golders Green as discriminatory, illiberal and unjust.

Local Conservatives pushed through the delay last night (19 July) in a surprise move at Barnet Council's Strategic Planning Committee.

The committee was considering whether to allow a change of use for the Hippodrome, Golders Green, from 'church' to 'place of worship', a decision which has already taken more than a year to reach committee stage.

Cllr Eva Greenspan, chair of the Committee, called for additional information on traffic and the travel and event management plan -- and used this as an excuse to delay a decision until November.

The next meeting of the Committee is in September and Barnet Liberal Democrats are calling for the application to be urgently prioritised so that it can be heard again at that time.

Liberal Democrat councillor Jess Brayne, who sits on the Strategic Planning Committee, said:

"Deferring the application was a discriminatory political act, and a cowardly one.

"The Conservatives seem not to want to be on record voting for or against the Markaz Islamic Centre.

"The Chair repeatedly asked non planning-related questions of the applicant, including questioning the temporary covering of statues within the building.

"We had been presented with a comprehensive application and heard from supporters, objectors and the applicants. It is very unusual for reports normally delegated to officers to be called into the planning committee in this manner.

"This delay is hugely unfair on the Markaz community who have been waiting a disproportionately long time. We need assurances that we will be able to vote on the application in full when it comes back to committee."

Leader of the Barnet Liberal Democrats Group, Cllr Gabriel Rozenberg, said:

"The Markaz application was brought forward by a small local community of Shia Muslims who fled religious persecution in Iraq.

"They have had to spend their limited resources on legal fees to secure a change of use of the Hippodrome and formalise their use of the site. They deserved to be welcomed by Barnet and it is shameful that they have had their efforts rebuffed on utterly spurious grounds."