A charity has been blocked from converting an empty warehouse in North Harrow into a community centre.

The Dollis Hill-based Imam Hussein Foundation had applied to change the use of Veneto House in Park Drive from industrial to a place where visitors, including the Afghan Shia community, can enjoy educational, cultural and religious activities.

However, Harrow Council's development management committee yesterday evening unanimously refused permission for the scheme in front of a packed public gallery at the council chamber at Harrow Civic Centre.

The foundation - which used members' donations to fund the purchase of the property in June 2007 and cover the costs of the subsequent submission of the application - proposed that the building would not be used for entertainment purposes or serve alcohol.

It said there would be four specific activities:

n Four employees doing office work from 8am to 6pm Monday to Saturday

n Language teaching by four teachers with up to 15 students each during one evening session a week between 7pm and 10pm

n Educational lectures involving four or five staff speaking to up to 100 people, including those involved with the language courses, one weeknight a week between 7pm and 10pm

n Religious and cultural ceremonies on Sundays between 11am and 1pm for four to five staff and up to 100 patrons

But residents objected to the noise and traffic problems they say would occur if the site was so intensely used.

Their petition said the proposed centre was inappropriate for such a quiet residential road with residents-only parking, and on the back of the campaign, neighbours have formed the Harrow Garden Village Action Group.

At last night's planning meeting, Headstone North ward councillor Tony Seymour (Conservative) said that of the 58 people who signed a petition against the proposal, two-thirds could be considered truly local while the same could be said for just five per cent of the 925 signatories of a petition in support of the scheme.

There was no other discussion before members of the committee voted unanimously to reject the plans on the basis that "the proposed change of use would result in increased and unreasonable disturbance to the amenities of adjoining and nearby residents and other users of the area" and, secondly, that it "would encourage additional and injudicious on-street parking during the periods of community use to the detriment of the free flow and safety of vehicular traffic and


In 1998, Harrow Council refused a plan to change part two- and part one-storey Veneto House into a ballet studio.