MANY Gorse Hill residents say plans to turn a former working men’s club into a meeting place for Muslims will do more harm than good in their community.

They fear the transformation of the Chapel Street club, which was built in the 1880s, will cause traffic problems and an increase in noise.

It is predicted up to 80 people wanting to pray will be present for a 45-minute period on a Friday – the rest of the week will see significantly reduced numbers.

Under plans outlined at a public meeting attended by more than 100 people on Friday night, the Al Habib Islamic Centre, which bought the building for £440,000, hopes to turn it into a prayer hall, Islamic library and conference facility with dance floor.

So far the group has received 260 objections to their proposals which are still going through the planning phase at Swindon Council.

“I think you’ll find that 90 per cent of residents in Gorse Hill don’t want this,” said 37-year-old resident Jim Will.

“Parking is bad enough and you can see the problems when people park here during Swindon Town games as there are so little spaces around.

“We have a school, a church and a community centre already so having this doesn’t make sense.”

Pete Doré, who represented a number of businesses in the area, said: “The more people who come in to use the building will take up parking spaces of those who want to shop here.

“No one wants to see it hurt local businesses.”

There are currently 5,000 Muslims living in Swindon, many of whom have lived in the area since the 1960s.

Al Habib trustee Muneer Ahmed, who led the public presentation, said: “This building is for multi-purpose use for the whole community – anyone can use it.

“The dance hall will have a sprung floor and a number of clubs and societies have already contacted us expressing an interest in meeting for music and drama practice.

“Many people will walk here, others will get the bus or cycle like I did today.

“We are also planning for a minibus to drop people off and pick people up. We hope to be given the go ahead for planning by July.”

The group was also behind a failed bid to open an Islamic faith school in north Swindon.

Coun Maurice Fanning (Lab, Gorse Hill and Pinehurst, said: “It’s important to have a public meeting to dispel any fears.

“It is right the community learns what is being planned so there are no Chinese whispers.”

If you have got a view, then please leave your comment below. However, the Swindon Advertiser would caution all posters to be aware of the terms and conditions of the website which states that users must not post material which is defamatory, offensive, or of an obscene or menacing character. We welcome constructive and informed debate, and we will take action against any poster who abuses these terms. The poster will be liable for any legal claim from a third party.