Friends and supporters of the Shia Iraqi group trying to establish a community centre with worship facilities at the former Golders Green Hippodrome building, held an on-line briefing meeting on Tuesday evening, hosted by leaders of Alyth Gardens Synagogue.
Those participating in the meeting included members of local churches in the neighbourhood.
The community trying to set up the Markaz (Arabic for “centre”) have been seeking planning permission from Barnet Council since at least 2017, with an application based on similar approval given in 2007 to the Hippodrome’s previous tenants, an evangelical Christian group.
But there has been continued opposition to the Markaz, the meeting was told, with at one point over 1,000 leaflets, purporting to come from a Golders Green Residents Environment Group, being sent to Barnet Council, which is considering the change of use planning application. One of the supporters of the application spoke of “direct hostility” which had left the applicants “pretty shocked”.
The services of the self-proclaimed “Mosquebuster”, lawyer Gavin Boby, have been retained by those in opposition to the Markaz project. But participants at the meeting were told that it had not so far proved possible to identify those who had hired him.
Planning consultants and the legal team working on behalf of the Markaz have submitted a “traffic plan” along with the planning application to Barnet Council, in order to minimise disruption to the local community on Muslim festivals.
One of the Shia leaders of the Markaz said that as Golders Green was such a transport hub, as many people as possible were being encouraged to use public transport when visiting the Hippodrome building. He estimated the size of the community “on a good day” at around 150 people.
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