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Islamic prayer centre in Swords gets the go-ahead

Local Muslim community successfully renews planning permission for new hub

Planning permission for an Islamic prayer and cultural centre in Swords, north Co Dublin, has been approved. File photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

Planning permission for an Islamic prayer and cultural centre in Swords, north Co Dublin, has been approved by Fingal County Council.

Members of the Muslim community in Swords had sought to renew planning permission to convert a former An Post sorting office into a centre for prayer and cultural events.

An initial application for the single-storey building located off the Rathbeale Road was approved in late December 2015, on the basis it would need to be renewed in two years’ time and despite more than a dozen residents objecting to the plans over fears it would increase traffic flows into a small area.

An appeal against the centre to An Bord Pleanála was unsuccessful the following April.

A report in March 2016 by An Bord Pleanála’s planning inspector had advised that permission should not be granted for the centre.

The inspector said the prayer centre would increase traffic congestion in the secluded area where it was to be located. The report said the amount of people using the centre was likely to grow with the increasing Muslim population in Ireland, and concluded that the proposal would have a “potential negative impact” on the existing residential area.

However, the board voted by a two-thirds majority against their inspector’s recommendation, and approved the plans.

Tariq Salahuddin, a prominent Muslim in the Swords community, was behind the original application to convert the old An Post building into an Islamic centre.

A recent application in May to renew the permission was granted last month by Fingal County Council.

The new plans include revisions to the proposed internal changes to the building. Works for a mechanical ventilation system required for a fire safety certificate for the building had been estimated to cost €80,000. Revised plans for a simpler ventilation system will cost between €5,000 and €10,000, Mr Salahuddin told The Irish Times.

Two residents submitted objections to the application to renew permission, reiterating concerns over the potential increase in traffic.

GAA hall

Currently, Muslim residents in Swords pray each Friday in a rented GAA club hall. The new centre would host daily prayers, Islamic classes for children, and cultural events.

The new centre “should help to integrate both Muslims and non-Muslims” by providing a place where other local residents can interact with the Muslim community, the planning proposal said.

The local Muslim community, of approximately 300 people, does not have the financial resources to redevelop the building into a mosque with a full minaret, Mr Salahuddin said.

The centre would give the local Muslim community a space for “social gathering”, he said.

Originally from Bangladesh, Mr Salahuddin has lived in Ireland for nearly 40 years.

“We need to make sure our children are properly guided,” he said. “You see it in the media, or when something horrible happens, then the local Muslim community gets blamed. We must make sure our children don’t go astray,” he said. “All Irish people will be welcome” in the centre, he said.

Funding for the works to fit out the centre will be raised among the Muslim community in Swords, and the wider community in Dublin if required, Mr Salahuddin said.

If there are no appeals to the renewal of planning permission, Mr Salahuddin said he hoped the centre would be opened in a “matter of months”.