Councillors are calling for a rethink on controversial plans to turn council-owned open space into a mosque car park.
Earlier this month cabinet members at Stoke-on-Trent City Councilrubber-stamped the decision to create a 25-space ‘community car park’ on a grassy triangle of land off Lower Spring Road, in Normacot, close to the Gillani Noor Masjid Mosque.
But now four City Independents and a Labour councillor have ‘called in’ the decision, which they claim would set a dangerous precedent and bring the council into disrepute.
They say the cash-strapped council should not be using its resources to benefit a private organisation such as the mosque, which ought to pay for its own parking.
Turning the 763sqm parcel of land into a car park will cost £55,000, with £20,000 coming from the mosque via a planning agreement and the rest covered by the council.
Members of the city renewal overview and scrutiny committee will now discuss the issue, which could be referred back to the cabinet.
In their call-in form, the five councillors acknowledge the car park would help alleviate traffic issues around the Chaplin Road mosque, the largest in the city.
But they question why taxpayers should pay for this, saying it could lead to similar requests from other organisations.
They say: “Our concerns arise from the fact we can’t understand why, in this age of austerity, we are using rate payers’ money to alleviate a problem caused principally by a private organisation that should have been addressed at the original planning stage and paid for by the private organisation.
“The proposal unfairly favours a private organisation in dealing with a general matter of disruptive parking. This decision is making a predecent.
“The proposal could quite reasonably lead to other equally deserving requests for parking provision for other religious organisations or primary schools, etc.”
The councillors also question why the report to cabinet failed to make any mention of the mosque, despite it being the main cause of parking problems in the area.
They add: “We believe the decision making thus far has not been in compliance with the national rules for openness and transparency and has called the authority into disrepute.”
The decision has been called in by City Independents Lee Wanger, Lilian Dodd, Jackie Barnes and Lesley Adams, and Labour councillor Desiree Elliott.
Scrutiny committee members will discuss the call-in when they meet on Wednesday, March 3.