A mosque will be built on the site of a transport depot after controversial plans were approved last night. Police were on hand to ensure the planning meeting at the civic centre went ahead peacefully, amid fears of protests as tensions ran high over the Millfield proposals.
Since they were announced last year, the plans to convert the transport depot in St Mark's Road into an Islamic place of worship have attracted 671 letters of objection and a 1,462-signature-strong petition about potential parking and noise problems.
However, applicant Coneil Bashir moved to ease concerns about feared 4am minaret prayer calls and a sudden influx of worshippers to the Sunderland site.
Speaking publicly for the first time about the development, he told councillors and objectors at the meeting: "There will be no public call to prayer. It will be one person and it will be done internally, not outside. The site will serve only those in the Sunderland and Millfield areas and it will not host weddings."
Members of the Development Control (South Sunderland) sub-committee met to discuss the plans, which involve the demolition of single-storey offices, the erection of parapet walls and two brick-faced columns.
After an almost-two-hour debate, councillors gave the proposals the go-ahead to cries of outrage from more than 20 objectors in the public gallery.
However, council leader Paul Watson said: "We need to decide on the facts that are presented to us, not about what may or may not happen or the fears people have."
Some neighbours, who also spoke at the meeting, objected because they believed the development would result in an increase in noise and traffic.
The application, which was submitted by the Pakistan Islamic Centre, attracted hundreds of complaints on the council's website. But while many were from people who live in Millfield, there were also objections from residents in Seaburn, Southwick and South Hylton.
Speaking after the meeting, resident Phil Pike, 39, branded the decision as "scandalous". "I feel like I've just wasted the last two hours of my life at that meeting," said the dad-of-three.