A landmark mosque is set to be built alongside one of the busiest motorway junctions in Lancashire after getting the green light from councillors.

The building – which was the winning design in a Royal Institute of British Architects competition – will be constructed on raised grassland at the Broughton interchange, where the M6 and M55 meet the A6 in Preston.

Preston City Council’s planning committee granted outline approval for the facility, the main body of which will be 12 metres high, with an accompanying 30-metre-tall minaret.

Members deferred a decision on the application last July – when the design had not yet been chosen – because they were unable to judge its suitability for the location. 

They also requested more evidence of the need for a mosque in the area.

On that occasion, the authority’s planning officers had recommended that the proposal be refused, both because of the absence of sufficient information about what it would look like, but also due to concerns over parking and the fact that the plot was in an area designated as open countryside in local planning policies.

This time around, officers said that the parking issue had been overcome after the applicant pledged to operate a booking system for spaces which would be enforced by automatic number plate recognition technology. 

They also concluded that while the mosque would not normally be deemed suitable for the proposed location, other material planning considerations “tipped the balance” in favour of approval.

That was because the place of worship would fulfil a separate Central Lancashire-wide policy designed to ensure that communities have sufficient facilities where there is a need for them.

However, during a packed meeting at the town hall, need, parking and suitability were the subject of intense debate both between committee members and those speaking for and against the proposal.

The meeting heard that the applicant had identified 311 households in the immediate local area for which the proposed building would be their closest aligned place of worship.

Of those, while only 17 were to the north of the M55 – and only two in Broughton village – a total of 73 were within the borders of the wider Broughton parish.

The proposed 150-space car park with booking system, has been designed to address the concerns of locals, with 77 of the spaces reserved for people who have car-shared, although there were concerns raised that double yellow lines to be painted on D’Urton Lane would simply not work, as it would encourage people to park further away.

Planning officers recognised the innovative and high quality design of the building which draws upon the history of Preston and is intended to be reminiscent of a cotton mill, with the minaret being a nod to a Victorian-era mill chimney.

Another bid to have the matter deferred was brought because Broughton Parish Council had only learned last week that the application was now recommended for approval, having been told at a meeting with planning officers in November that the recommendation remained one of refusal.  

However, this attempt was voted down and the application itself was passed by eight votes to three.

More than 625 letters of support had been sent to the city council backing the mosque plan, while over 425 people lodged objections.