Education plan for empty pub

Melrose Arms, Office Row, Front Street, Shotton Colliery.'There are proposals for it to become as Muslim education centre.
Melrose Arms, Office Row, Front Street, Shotton Colliery.'There are proposals for it to become as Muslim education centre.

RESTRICTIONS could be put on plans for a derelict pub to prevent it being turned into a mosque.

Applications have previously been put in to turn the Melrose Arms, in Shotton Colliery, into a prayer hall.

But they had been withdrawn after concern from villagers.

Now a revised proposal, which asks for permission to use the building in the village’s Front Street as a educational centre, looks set to be approved.

The owner of the site, Kaiser Choudry, who also owns the Albert Guest House opposite, has said the centre will be used by the local Muslim Community of about 10 families.

While it would run various classes, he has said it will not include a mosque.

Visitors will be able to use parking spaces at the guest house in an informal arrangement, with the lack of places outside the derelict pub highlighted as one of the concerns from groups and representatives in the village.

Mr Choudry has not submitted a statement as part of the planning papers, which will be discussed at a meeting of Durham County Council’s area planning committee for central and east Durham tomorrow, because he has said he wants to make his representations at the session.

The parish council has said it is concerned permission for the change of use could mean it could be altered again to be used as a prayer hall without the need for a further application, a fear supported by Durham county councillor for the village Robin Todd.

The Shotton Partnership has welcomed improvements proposed for the building, which has been empty for several years, but also says it is concerned it could segregate the community and duplicate services already available.

It also says the plan lacks clarity.

A part of its report recommending approval, the county council has said it could attach a condition which would mean its owner would have to make another application to ask for permission for use as a prayer hall.

But, it says while it has taken concerns into consideration, the authority does not think the centre would have an adverse impact on those around it.

Case officer Allan Fenwick said: “While it is regrettable that the public house will be lost especially given it is the last such remaining facility in the area, it has been shown that the use was no longer viable and the building is sitting derelict.

“A proposal that sees the property brought back in to use as a community facility should be welcomed as it helps to improve a visually prominent eyesore on one of the main routes through Shotton.”

The plan will be discussed at 10am tomorrow at County Hall, Durham City.