DARWEN MP Jake Berry has been accused of being ‘very irresponsible’ after supporting a petition against plans for an Islamic centre in the town.

The proposals for the now-closed pub, The Railway, have been submitted to Blackburn with Darwen Council.

A petition was launched against the application by resident Karen Hawthornthwaite which has received almost 2,000 signatures and is to be handed to Mr Berry.

Cllr Brian Taylor, who is a member of the town and borough council, said that in doing so he is ‘pandering to prejudice’.

He said: “Jake Berry is acting very irresponsibly by supporting the petition against the proposed Islamic education centre.

“As a member of the legal profession he should know that any planning application can only be turned down on planning criteria.

“All he is doing is pandering to the most biased emotions and prejudice.

“This application should be and will be decided purely on planning grounds as any other application would be, so it will need to be acceptable to highways and be compatible with the area in which it sits.”

Concerns were expressed about the centre attracting traffic and its location in the centre of the town.

Darwen currently has one Islamic place of worship but the people behind the application said that due to a rise in the number of people working in the town, a second one was needed. They said it would be used as an Islamic education centre where people could pray, rather than a mosque, as is stated on the council’s website.

Former Darwen borough councillor Michael Johnson said that Mr Berry was ‘doing his job’. He said: “If more than 1,500 of Jake Berry’s constituents sign a petition opposing something in the town he has no option but to act.

“He is doing his job. Councillors are not politicians and Jake is. If constituents do not want something to happen they have to go to him and he has to act on their behalf.”

Mr Berry said: “Like any proposed development in Darwen I am keen to hear the views of as many local people as possible.

“I believe that it’s really important that politicians listen to what residents have to say about important local planning matters.”

“We know that Blackburn Council have a track record of ignoring the voices of Darreners, so that’s why I will be working hard to make sure that local people who want to object to this planning application, on planning grounds, are able to do so.”