Thurnby Lodge: Leicester mayor Peter Soulsby 'open to discussion'

Leicester's mayor says he remains "open to discussion" over an Islamic charity's plans to turn a former scout hut into a community centre.

Peter Soulsby said about 200 people attended a demonstration at Thurnby Lodge on Friday to oppose As-salaam Trust's proposed tenancy.

Demonstrators at the building, which is currently used by the charity, said their opposition was not race-related.

As-salaam Trust said the centre would be for the whole local community.

Mr Soulsby said the attendance of the British National Party at the demonstration "was very unwelcome indeed".

He said: "They have no part in our local community... we don't need them to cause trouble.

"I am very open to discussion with local people as to what the future of this building should be, and we'll find a solution that is acceptable to the local community.

Ideal opportunity

"That scout hut has been empty now for quite a few years and the Scout Association has been wanting to find some tenants for it. It's not an easy one."

Mohammed Lockhat, from the As-salaam Trust, said: "Our intentions for the scout hut are primarily for a community centre which will serve the needs of the community.

Image caption Mohammed Lockhat said the charity wanted the chance to work with the wider community

"It will be an ideal opportunity to work with the locals; to be engaging with the local community. This won't be something specifically for the Muslims.

"Only one aspect is prayers, which a lot of people are concerned about... it's a very important but a small aspect.

"We have heard words of hatred towards Muslims and words that have been unpleasant."

As-salaam Trust said it aimed to provide food sharing services, drug and alcohol advice and education to make community life better.

Mr Lockhat said: "We haven't been given a chance... We have been peacefully praying here for years with no trouble.

"Our intention is to serve the local and wider community, irrespective of race, faith, religion, even no religion."

Deputy Mayor Sarah Russell said: "The city council approached about a hundred local community groups who had expressed an interest in acquiring local property.

"As-salaam and a couple of other groups came forward. The two other groups interested in the lease dropped out.

"It's a standard process that we use for all our community buildings and As-salaam were part of that process."

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