A MAN campaigning for a Muslim place of worship has rubbished rumours that a controversial woodland burial site will include a mosque 'via the back door.'

Medina Islamic Education Centre has repeatedly failed in its attempts to build a mosque in Clitheroe over the last five years.

But an unrelated application by an Asian businessman to build a woodland burial site opposite Northcote Manor, in Old Langho, has prompted some residents to claim the plans include a mosque. At a public meeting to discuss the burial ground, some residents of Billington and Langho said they feared the Muslim community would attempt to 'sneak' a mosque on to the site after failed attempts to build one in Clitheroe.

However, the plans, which have been submitted to Ribble Valley Council, do not include a mosque. Instead, it will have an administration building which will include a multi-faith prayer room.

Farouk Hussain, spokesman for the Medina Centre, said: "The reaction to this proposal has come as no surprise. Just because it's a Muslim man who is behind this, people automatically assume it is us doing it. Some years ago we were offered the land for a mosque but we rejected it out of hand.

"Why would we want to build a mosque at Langho -- it's more than halfway to Blackburn. The whole point is that our community is in Clitheroe.

"Like any faith group we want to worship in the place where we live, so we don't want to be driven out of Clitheroe." Businessman Sabir Esa, who owns Safe Depot storage centre, George Street West, Blackburn, is behind the ambitions eco-burial plans. He has the backing of Lord Patel of Blackburn and Tauheedul Mosque, the region's biggest and oldest mosque.

The burial ground would be created on a 28-acre site on Northcote Road, just off the A59, and would include parking for 200 cars, a 300m square administration and funeral prayer building and a 1.5 mile track through the graveyard.

Hundreds of residents are opposed to the plans on the grounds of the potential traffic chaos caused. Protesters are to be led by bosses at Northcote Manor who claim the proposal would seriously damage their hotel business.