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Councillors receive death threats over Maidstone Mosque planning application

By Luke May

Councillors and planning officers were sent intimidating letters and even death threats over the development of a mosque.

News of the threats comes from a councillor who has warned of an increasingly hostile environment for councillors, particularly those on planning committees.

Cllr Martin Round said: "My life was threatened. The chair, vice chair and myself received really serious abuse.

Maidstone Mosque was demolished back in November
Maidstone Mosque was demolished back in November

"I understand some council officers also received intimidating letters and messages."

Councillors approved plans to build a new mosque on Mote Road in December 2016.

The old mosque, which has served the County Town since the 1990s, was demolished in November last year and work began to construct a new three-storey building which would house classrooms, a library, offices, kitchen, three shops and one flat.

Computer generated image of the new Maidstone Mosque
Computer generated image of the new Maidstone Mosque

The development has been marred by protests from far right and anti-Islam protesters.

However the mosque's Imam hopes it will reopen in May.

Cllr Round, who represents Headcorn at Maidstone Borough Council, said: "We're getting threats on the planning committee more and more regularly.

Maidstone borough councillor Martin Round. Picture: Andy Jones
Maidstone borough councillor Martin Round. Picture: Andy Jones

"As a councillor I'd say I'm getting more complaints than ever before. People's patience is wearing thin.

"I think there needs to be greater engagement with the public to boost understanding.

"We sometimes hear about how we've done a useless job as a planning committee, but that's often because people don't get the decision they wanted.

Maidstone Mosque on Mote Road before it was demolished. Picture Martin Apps (5581366)
Maidstone Mosque on Mote Road before it was demolished. Picture Martin Apps (5581366)

"As a planning committee, we have to consider each application according to planning guidelines.

"We've spoken to council officers to see how we can better engage with people.

"There are ideas like putting a briefing sheet on seats before a committe meeting. That way attendees can understand how and why we make decisions.

Dr Muhammad Shabbir Usmani, Iman of Maidstone Mosque
Dr Muhammad Shabbir Usmani, Iman of Maidstone Mosque

"That being said, there are people who do get in touch to thank us for our our help, even if we're just signposting services.

"They know we're working hard."

Muslims in Maidstone have been worshipping in Heather House, Park Wood, while construction work is underway.

Computer generated images of the new Maidstone Mosque (5664779)
Computer generated images of the new Maidstone Mosque (5664779)

The mosque's Imam, Dr Muhammad Shabbir Usmani, said: "These new facilities will include classrooms for the children, more space to pray, wash and rest, a new library and a flat.

"Our previous space did not allow us to do this, but we would also like to work with churches in the area to provide space for homeless people too."

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