Mosque could be 'fantastic' addition to city architecture

A Derby building designer said that a controversial new mosque set for Normanton "could make a fantastic contribution to the city's architecture".

Derek Latham, chairman of architects' firm Lathams, said the plans for the 2,800 square metre dual-domed building were "exciting, not just for the Muslim community, but for Derby".

The building's designer, Atba Al-Samarraie,has been singled out for praise by English Heritage in the past.

But many people in the area were dismayed to see the mosque granted planning permission on Thursday night as they believe it is too large and will cause parking problems.

Di Weston, who spoke for protesters at the meeting, said those against the building were "considering their options" for what to do next.

Mr Latham said that siting a religious building in the community it served seemed "absolutely right".

He said: "When Normanton was first built, churches were included within the residential area cheek by jowl with the houses they served. The new mosque is designed in that same urban tradition."

But he warned that the developers must avoid "gaudy" decoration for the building, set for wasteland between Renals Street and Mill Hill Lane.

Mr Latham's comments came after the chairman of the city council's planning committee, Councillor Robin Wood, said the mosque would "be an addition to some of the finest architecture in Derby".

Mr Al-Samarraie was referred to in glowing terms in 2007 by English Heritage's Places of Worship Selection Guide, detailing what sort of faith buildings could get listed status.

It referred to a mosque he designed in Leeds which, among others, fitted "comfortably into an English streetscape".

Mr Al-Samarraie said he had been working on the Normanton design for about two years. It will cater for up to 600 and have a minaret towering 21 metres into the sky.

He said of the parking concerns: "There will be an underground car park beneath the building. The current site has no parking facility. That can cause chaos, which having the new mosque would improve.

"Also we get brownie points, as it were, for walking to mosque. It's seen as a positive thing."

The building was applied for by the Al-Farooq Trust which has been working for more than three years to find a replacement site for its current place of worship, based in a large house in nearby Western Road.

At present, the house can become so overcrowded that worshippers have to pray outside. Al-Farooq secretary Dr Mohammed Asghar said the new mosque was set to be open within "three or four years".

Mrs Weston, of Mill Hill Lane, said the mosque was, in isolation, "quite an attractive building".

But she said: "My problem is the size of it and the number of attendees who will use it."

The city council received 18 letters of objection and a 106-name petition against the plans.