Planning officers have answered the prayers of Alton’s Muslim community as a former chapel and dance studio is set to be converted.  

Leaders at the Alton Islamic Centre (AIC) want to return Bell House Chapel into a place of worship as the landmark on St Mary’s Close is currently designated as a commercial dance studio.

A change of use application has been approved by East Hampshire District Council with the building set to become a masjid for Islamic prayers and teaching.

Officers have been told the masjid will open to the general public for daily prayers at dawn, midday, afternoon, dusk and sunset with each session lasting around 15 minutes.

A larger Jummah midday session will take place on Friday with around 60 people usually attending current sessions in Alton Community Centre.

“In addition to the daily and Jummah prayers, we hope to offer Islamic lessons to the general public, including lessons for children and for adults in both the Quran and Arabic,” reads AIC’s Change of Use statement.

The building’s exterior will not be altered but the bar will be replaced with a prayer room and some minor interior alterations are planned.

Planners received five objections, with one complainant suggesting the building should be for “all the people of Alton” while others raised concerns about the impact on nearby car parks and traffic.

But there were also two letters of support from members of the town’s “thriving multicultural community” with the move to give Alton’s Muslim contingent a permanent home being lauded.