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York Way Masjid: Mosque faces demolition as owner plans five-storey office block

PUBLISHED: 07:00 20 October 2016

Children at an after-school club in the York Way Masjid. Picture: Dieter Perry

Children at an after-school club in the York Way Masjid. Picture: Dieter Perry

Dieter Perry

It may not be the most attractive building, but 55-61 Brewery Road in Holloway is still home to 300 worshippers at York Way Masjid. With demolition on the cards, director Mukhtar Osman asks James Morris: 'Where else is there?'

The York Way Masjid, in Brewery Road, Holloway, is under threat of demolition. Picture: Dieter PerryThe York Way Masjid, in Brewery Road, Holloway, is under threat of demolition. Picture: Dieter Perry

Mukhtar Osman had been having “sleepless nights” before Islington Council’s planning committee met on Thursday last week.

Councillors heard an application by Atlas Property and Services to demolish the building at numbers 55 to 61, Brewery Road.

The York Way Masjid rents the first and second floor of this building from Atlas. It has operated as a mosque since 2008, and doubles as a community centre.

And Mukhtar, director of the mosque, is expecting many more restless evenings after the decision was deferred to a later date.

The committee wants to review designs of the plan, which would see a five-storey office block built in its place. The application won’t be heard again until late November at the earliest.

Mukhtar says: “I have been having sleepless nights at the prospect of closure, and it’s not just me.This has been a huge concern for everyone.”

It is in a vulnerable position. In a bit to protect itself from developers, Mukhtar applied to change the building use from business to religious and community.

It was turned down by council planning officers in July because it would result in a loss of employment space: Brewery Road, sandwiched between Caledonian Road and York Way, is a heavily industrialised area.

The mosque has 300 worshippers. Its 250 capacity is often filled at Friday prayers. More than 400 signed a petition against the plans.

Children at an after-school club in the York Way Masjid. Picture: Dieter PerryChildren at an after-school club in the York Way Masjid. Picture: Dieter Perry

In its community centre guise, it also offers services such as youth clubs and after-school classes.

It is mainly used by Islington’s Somali community, but also minorities such as Bengalis and Ethiopians. “We have a very diverse community in this part of the borough,” Mukhtar says, “and it’s the only mosque in this vicinity.

“It is massively used and would be a loss to so many families and children if it closed. The ramifications would be huge.

“There’s no alternative for our worshippers. The nearest is Finsbury Park Mosque, which is already heavily over-subscribed.

“You see it on Friday prayers and people are praying outside. So our people can’t simply join another mosque.

“There’s nowhere else to go and if Atlas is successful, we would basically be left on the streets.

“Our whole family would be homeless.”

Planning officers had advised the committee to approve the application, telling councillors: “The site’s existing building is under-used, dated, and offers very poor accessibility to people with disabilities.

“The subject building’s upper floors are currently used as a mosque, not considered to be appropriate to the economic functioning of the area.”

After Thursday’s deferral, a council spokeswoman said the application could be heard again in late November or early December – but that it could be in the New Year.

Atlas has not responded to a request for comment.

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