Investigation launched into councillor's comments about mosque

Cllr Ray Best appears in the transcript of the February group meeting, but did not declare an intere

Havering Council said it is investigating Cllr Ray Best - Credit: Vickie Flores

An investigation has been launched into comments made during a planning meeting about a mosque's opening hours.

Havering Park councillor Ray Best (Con) was the subject of a formal complaint by one of his ward constituents after comments he made during a planning committee meeting on July 1.

At the meeting, Cllr Best spoke in opposition to an application from a mosque in his ward, Iqrah Education and Cultural Centre (IECC), in Chase Cross Road, to extend its opening hours.

During his speech, he claimed the 60 objectors who wrote to the committee asking them to reject the application “all live within 500 yards of the site”, whereas those who wrote in favour “probably do not live in the same radius”.

In a complaint seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, a Muslim resident said they “took great personal offence” to this comment, arguing it “effectively referred to [them] as an outsider”.

The resident wrote: “Had Cllr Best checked the application comments, he would see that those in support are not only very local to the mosque, but are his ward members.

“Without even checking its accuracy, he made a sweeping false statement which assumed anyone who might pray or worship in a mosque could not possibly live in Collier Row."

The IECC, which has applied for extended hours twice previously, requested to open at noon daily, closing at 7.30pm on weeknights and 5.30pm on weekends.

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It is currently only allowed to open for part of the day on Sundays and Mondays because of a condition imposed on the building in 1999, before it became a mosque.

Cllr Best told committee members: “This will produce hundreds of traffic movements each day, causing excessive parking problems. 

“It’s not suitable in this area, which has very limited parking."

He claimed "car doors banging and light pollution from headlights have been a constant source of complaints".

The application was heard by the committee, rather than being decided by council officers, on Cllr Best’s request.

It was rejected by members despite officers recommending they accept.

Regarding the complaint, a Havering Council spokesperson said: “We take any complaint like this extremely seriously and can confirm this has been passed to the monitoring officer to investigate as part of the corporate complaints process.

“As a council, we do not tolerate any xenophobic, prejudicial or racist language or behaviour.”

Cllr Best was contacted for comment on Friday, July 9, but has yet to respond.