Plans for the development of a mosque and Islamic cultural centre in Kilkenny city have been rejected by An Bord Pleanála.
The proposal by the Kilkenny Islamic Trust was granted planning permission last year by Kilkenny County Council but a number of appeals were lodged with the board and a decision was made this week to overturn the council’s grant.
Included in the proposed development were a mosque, a two-storey community building, two two-bedroom guest apartments, two two-storey four-bedroom semi-detached houses for the head of the local Islamic community and a staff member, classrooms, a café and a halal shop.
The Islamic community wanted to build on a site at the Hebron Industrial Estate on the edge of Kilkenny city.
The plan caused controversy last year and there were angry scenes at a public meeting held to provide information to local people.
An Bord Pleanala has decided to overturn the planning permission because of the proposed development’s location and scale, on the grounds that it would be “contrary” to the Hebron Road design strategy of 2017 and would “seriously injure” the amenity of adjoining properties and would be contrary to the proper planning and development of the area.
About 40 objections were lodged with Kilkenny County Council following the original application for permission, with one objector collecting over 1,000 signatures against the proposal.
The nearby O’Loughlin Gaels GAA Club, which caters for hundreds of adult and children members, made a submission regarding its concerns for local traffic, saying that the area is already subject to traffic congestion at certain times.
One of the objectors, Eugene McGuinness, who is a brother of Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness but is standing in the forthcoming local elections as an independent candidate, said he was “absolutely delighted” with the board’s decision.
“I have put in 14 months on this… It’s been a difficult 14 months because as soon as you object to a development with a religious aspect to it you’re branded a racist or a xenophobe. That surprised me.”
He said his problem with the proposal wasn’t on religious or anti-Islamic grounds, but because of its location and the already existing traffic problems near Hebron Road.
“We have an Islamic community in Kilkenny and, as such, they are entitled to their place of worship.”
He said the county council made a mistake in granting permission: “I think the planners in Kilkenny were bulled into it, not by the Islamic community, but by keyboard warriors.”
The online Kilkenny Journal, whose editor Michael McGrath is standing in the local elections as an independent, described the decision on its Facebook page as “better than an All-Ireland victory”.
The Imam, Ibrahim Ndoor, said the decision had cast “a gloomy cloud” over the Islamic community in Kilkenny.
“We have had huge expectation on this project and have been working very very hard to get a place that we can call our own Islamic Centre that will give us a place of worship, a place to congregate, a place to socialise and a place of education,” he said, adding that they have been looking for a site in Kilkenny
“We really want a place of worship. Our community is growing and the needs of our community are also increasing on a yearly basis.”