By Robert Firth, local democracy reporter
An old fire station will be bulldozed to make way for a mosque so that worshippers don’t have to pray outside.
Lambeth Council approved plans for the new South London Islamic Centre at a planning meeting on March 15.
People attending the mosque in Streatham have to cram into an outdoor courtyard in all weather conditions or pray in hallways because of a lack of space. The new purpose-built Islamic centre will have bigger prayer rooms to stop overcrowding.
It will also boast two gyms, a nursery for use by worshippers and a cafe and bookshop open to members of the public.
Mohammad Aslam Ijaz, chair of trustees at the South London Islamic Centre (Slic), said the mosque had outgrown its current premises. He said: “Over the years the Muslim community has grown in the surrounding area demanding for a properly built community hall and mosque. It has to be inhabitable.
“For the last many years Friday prayers are held in all weathers on open courtyards under inflammable plastic sheets. Children’s evening classes are held in crowded rooms while ladies and youths exercise in a stuffy basement.”
Waseem Nisar, general secretary of the Islamic centre, added: “Anyone who has been to Slic knows that the premises are not fit for purpose. During busy times such as Friday prayers and Eid all possible areas of the centre are used. This means we have people praying in the courtyard which is bearable in the summer but not acceptable in the winter considering we are in 2022.”
But local resident and retired architect Martin York blasted the design of the new centre, saying it looked more like a casino than place of worship. He said: “Having once designed a mosque I understand they are historically simple, dignified and peaceful serving a spiritual need and enhancing the reception of the religious message.
“This design has absolutely none of those attributes. It demonstrates an almost spectacular ugliness more suited to a cinema or casino than a place of worship.”
The South London Islamic Centre opened in 1977 after acquiring a lease on the former Streatham fire station. At the time it was one of the first mosques and community centres for Muslims in Lambeth.
The old Streatham fire station will be bulldozed to make way for the new mosque. Only half of the building remains due to damage it suffered from bombing during the Second World War.
Councillors approved the plans for the new mosque unanimously at a planning meeting on March 15.