The charity behind controversial plans for a “multi-faith centre” in an area of Leeds associated with the 7/7 bombings says it would help to tackle religious extremism.
Aspiring Communities wants to build a £7million facility on the former Ice Pak factory site on Barkly Road in Beeston.
Its planning application – which outlines proposals for a sports hall, prayer and funeral hall, learning centre and food facilities – has sparked a flood of responses to Leeds City Council.
More than 200 people have submitted formal objections and more than 100 have written in support of the plan.
The site is in the heart of an area that has unwanted links to the 2005 terrorist attacks in London. One of the bombers, Mohammad Sidique Khan, lived in Beeston. Two of the others had links with the area.
Zeb Ahmed, director of Aspiring Communities, said the legacy of 7/7 was one of the reasons for choosing Beeston for a scheme that aimed to break down “prejudice and stereotyping” by bringing people of all faiths together.
He said: “When we started talking about doing this three and a half years ago, there was a lot of rhetoric about 7/7.
“A lot of people were tarred with the same brush.
“But if you don’t talk about things, there are people out there who will try and radicalise others. We have to make sure there’s a system in place to do the right thing and prevent extremism.”
Two of the charity’s volunteers have been trained in the government’s Prevent strategy to tackle extremism.
Objectors say the centre, which would welcome hundreds of people for worship each week and once a year accommodate 1,500, would increase traffic congestion. Many residents would prefer to see housing built on the site.
Robert Winfield, of Beeston Community Forum, said: “The proposed development is far too large for the infrastructure around the Barkly Road area.
“We feel the site would be far better used for housing.”