New proposals are being put forward to convert a house on the edge of Horsham and Crawley into an Islamic community centre.
A Shia Muslim charity group known as Millat-E-Jaffariya is seeking planning approval from Horsham District Council to change the use of the property - Stafford House in Bonnetts Lane, Ifield.
They want to convert it into accommodation for the group’s Imam, as well as using the property as a religious meeting hall and place of worship, with parking for up to 80 cars.
They want to include a communal kitchen, men’s and women’s bathrooms and a preparation room where bodies could be ceremonially washed and prepared with anointment in accordance with custom before a burial ceremony away from the site.
The group - which has been searching for a suitable property for more than 20 years - first sought planning approval in 2011. But the project didn’t go ahead because planning restrictions were imposed which meant the property could only be used at certain times and on certain days.
More recently, a marquee has been used at the property in which to hold prayer meetings but the group is now seeking formal planning consent.
Development consultants Brent Incorporated, in a design statement submitted to Horsham District Council, says: “One of the primary aims of the community is to come together in the context of their Islamic faith. However, the primacy of use of the mosques in this area is given to the Sunni Muslims - comparing to the different customs for example between the Anglican and Catholic faiths that generates demand for separate premises - such that there are sometimes conflicts in opportunity for use of existing mosques, particularly as Sunni and Shia events lie on the same calendar.
“This community is therefore in desperate need of its own Imam’s house which will be used as a focus for their Shia faith.”
The company says that steps would be taken to minimise noise. It says parking would be screened and landscaping carried out. Increased traffic, it says, would ‘not be noticeable’ as the property is already on a busy traffic route. Concerns over noise, traffic and parking have been raised by nearby residents.