Plans to build a £4 million town centre mosque look set to be abandoned after council chiefs called for a review into other options.
Hyndburn Council gave the go-ahead three years ago to sell land at Steiner Street in Accrington to the Mosque Committee for a 2,500-worshipper mosque and community centre.
However, councillors backed a motion at full council last week asking the cabinet to consider alternative uses for the site and give preference to business, employment or housing proposals.
Council leader Miles Parkinson told the Observer before the council meeting plans to offer the land to community leaders had fallen through on ‘religious grounds’.
He said: "The Mosque Committee have written to me and they cannot proceed on leasehold land, unfortunately.
"We offered the Mosque Committee half an acre if they could prove the need on a leasehold basis. They came back and said that was unsatisfactory. Due to religious reasons they believe they cannot build on leasehold land. Their view is they must have it freehold, but that isn’t an option."
Coun Parkinson said the Steiner Street land was part of a general overhaul of the council’s land assets, saying if land is sold freehold the authority loses control over any future changes to developments, as well as losing a vital income stream.
Coun Ken Moss, who supported the motion, told the council meeting ‘painful decisions’ needed to be made to ensure the financial security of the borough.
He said: "The council is facing a decade which is the worst financially in many years.
"We are faced with a situation where times have changed and we must make the most of the assets the council has."
Deputy council leader Munsif Dad opposed the motion and said the issue of freehold and leasehold land could be resolved by a covenant or lease.
He told the meeting that ‘good progress’ had been made over the past 15 months and said the opportunity of building community facilities in the area would be lost.
He also feared the trust and community relations between the council and residents in the area would suffer if the motion was passed.
Tory council leader Peter Britcliffe said the motion was ‘irrelevant’ as the decision would be made by the cabinet and accused Labour of ‘hiding’ behind full council.