UK: £17.5m Cambridge mosque gets planning approval

Chris Havergal

An artist's impression of the new mosque for Cambridge

Planning permission was today granted for Cambridge’s £17.5 million new mosque after the designs were praised as “breathtaking”.

Cllr John Hipkin, a member of the city council’s planning committee, said the three-storey domed building would be a “major addition to the treasure house of architecture that is Cambridge”.

It will be built on the site of the former Robert Sayle warehouse in Mill Road and will include a prayer hall with capacity for 1,000 people, a café and teaching rooms, plus a library, a mortuary, and a large public garden fronting the street.

Tim Winter, chairman of the Muslim Academic Trust which is raising funds for the project, said Cambridge needed a purpose-built mosque because it now attracted tourists, scholars and businesspeople from around the world.

He told the committee: “The city’s cultural and religious infrastructure is still essentially 19th century, if not older.

“We have not changed to accommodate the cosmopolitan reality of our city.

“Other cities are ahead of us – Oxford has got four purpose-built mosques, Cambridge has not got one.”

Mr Winter said the building would regenerate a “rather downbeat” corner of Mill Road, which was flattened following a major fire in 2009.

He said: “Not only will it reduce the impossible overcrowding in existing city mosques, enabling downscaling in these premises, but it will also create a real jewel in the heart of Romsey.

“We want something that’s really stunning, that will bring tourists to the area, and that will radically transform the whole feel of that area.”

More than 40 neighbours objected to the scheme, raising concerns about parking, noise and the scale of the building, and Vinery Road resident Sarah Hunter spoke on their behalf.

But councillors decided the impact would be acceptable.

Cllr Hipkin said the mosque would “go a long way to revitalise this part of Mill Road”.

He said: “This building is of the highest architectural quality, I don’t think it’s possible to overstate the aesthetic quality of this building.

“It will be a major addition to the treasure house of architecture that is Cambridge.”

Cllr Gail Marchant-Daisley described the designs as “breathtaking”.

The application was approved unanimously.

The Muslim Academic Trust has already raised more than £4 million to buy the site and its next target is to raise the £13 million construction cost.