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 for the proposed development at the Hebron Industrial Estate on the edge of the city.
However, a number of appeals were lodged with the board and a decision was made this week to overturn the council’s decision. One objector said the decision was “better than an All-Ireland victory”.
The proposed development included a mosque, a two-storey community building, two guest apartments, two two-storey four-bedroom semi-detached houses, classrooms, a café and a halal shop.
The plan caused controversy last year and there were angry scenes at a public meeting held to provide information to local people.
An Bord Pleanála said it decided to overturn the planning permission because of the proposed development’s location and scale. It said the development would have been “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 the council following the original application, with one objector collecting more than 1,000 signatures from people opposing the proposal. The nearby O’Loughlin Gaels GAA Club made a submission raising concerns about the impact on traffic locally, saying that the area is already subject to congestion at certain times.
One objectors, Eugene McGuinness, a brother of Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness who is standing in this month’s local elections as an independent candidate, said he was “absolutely delighted” with the decision.
“I have put in 14 months on this,” he said. “ 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 was not on religious or anti-Islamic grounds, but because of the 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.
He said the council made a mistake in granting permission after being pushed into supporting the proposal “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 mosque planned was too big for the area, it was obviously a mosque being built for the entire southeast and even further afield,” he said. “(People should) get out and celebrate - it’s a great day for Kilkenny. A powerful day for freedom in our history.”
Kilkenny Imam Ibrahim Ndure said there was “misinformation peddled” about the proposed centre. “We haven’t been given the reasons and rational for the rejection and until then it is impossible to comment any further.”