PLANS to renovate and modernise an Islamic education centre in Blackburn have been refused.

Mr F Wadee asked permission to improve the buildings on Robinson Street, the 19th Century Gothic former St Stephen’s CE Infant School and add a two-storey extension in the grounds.

The building later became the temporary home of the newly created Tauheedul Islam Boys School and in recent years the site has been occupied by an Islamic Educational Centre providing teaching, worshipping and spiritual provision.

In May Mr Wadee submitted a planning application Blackburn with Darwen Council to revamp the buildings to ‘bring its learning experience into the 21st century’.

The proposed changes included the insertion of a mezzanine floor level within the two main wings of the building to provide a first-floor level open space for assemblies, prayer, meditation and sports.

The additional space was to allow males and females to worship at the same time, rather than to increase the physical capacity of the premises.

The reasons for refusal included: “The proposals by virtue of their scale, design and siting would result in incongruous, discordant and unsympathetic additions that fail to respond positively to the character of the existing building.

“By virtue of their wholly unsympathetic designs and locations, the proposals are thus considered to be extremely harmful to the appearance of the historic school itself.”

Little Harwood and Whitebirk ward’s Cllr Pat McFall said “This is the right decision on the current plan.

“Perhaps a redesign might be more acceptable if it fits in better with the school building.”

A supporting statement by Urban Futures Planning Consultancy said: “Within Blackburn with Darwen, the proportion of Muslim population is the third highest among all local authorities in the UK and the highest outside of London and the site is located within the predominantly Muslim ward of Little Harwood.

““The objective of the desired modifications is to modernise the premises internally to bring about a genuine 21st century learning and spiritual setting.”

It added that the condition of the building had ‘continued to decline’ and the time had come to ‘secure the building’s future use’.

Mr Wadee, his agent Scheme Designs Ltd, Urban Futures and council planners are understood to be in negotiation about a revised application.

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