Issa brothers unveil plans for Europe's biggest Muslim cemetery

Billionaire Issa brothers who bought Asda for £6.8bn unveil plans for Europe’s biggest Muslim cemetery in Blackburn

  • Billionaire Issa brothers have won planning consent for a £5 million mosque 
  • The mass site will include 35,000 burial plots in their home town of Blackburn
  • It dwarfs London’s Garden of Peace which opened in 2002 with 10,000 plots 

Plans for Europe’s biggest Muslim cemetery have been unveiled by the billionaire Issa brothers who recently bought a major stake in Asda.

The 84-acre Issa Memorial Garden would be built to the west of Blackburn, Lancashire, and will have 35,000 burial plots – covering a space the size of 40 football pitches.

This new site dwarfs the current largest Muslim cemetery, The Garden of Peace, which opened in East London in 2002 and holds 10,000 plots, all of which are now occupied.

The Issa Foundation, the charitable arm of billionaire brothers Zuber and Mohsin Issa’s business empire, put forward the plans in part due to an increase in deaths from Covid.

The self-made billionaire Issa brothers, whose started out cleaning toilets and bought up Asda last year, have won planning consent for a £5 million mosque in their home town of Blackburn

But hundreds of locals have objected to the plans, citing concerns over congestion and wildlife on greenland where the cemetery would be built.

And more than 2,800 people have signed a petition objecting to the proposals and Hyndburn Council requested more information on the development.

In a statement, the Issa Foundation said: ‘[The] need for Muslim burial plots within the North West of England has become critical, a situation made worse by Covid 19.

‘The proposal is a matter of public interest for the Muslim community and is of strategic importance for the North West area.’

At the start of November, more than 200 people met to rally against plans for a cemetery, prior to the them being published.

During the meeting, which was attended by a number of councillors, one resident, who wished not to be named, said: ‘We are concerned about a number of things.

‘The roads are already congested enough in the morning and this is going to make that even worse.

Plans for what would be Europe’s biggest Muslim cemetery have been unveiled by the billionaire Issa brothers

The 84-acre Issa Memorial Garden would be built to the west of Blackburn would have 35,000 burial plots – covering a space the size of 40 football pitches.

‘People use the land for dog walking and there is also wildlife living on the green land which we want to protect.’

The foundation has now registered an application with Hyndburn Council for the creation of the cemetery, located off Blackburn Road, near the small town of Oswaldtwistle.

The documents detail a provision for 663 car parking spaces spanning the full length of the site’s northern boundary, parallel with Blackburn Road.

This new site is just up the road from the billionaire Issa brothers’ £100million Frontier Park complex, which has a service station, several food outlets, and a ‘Hampton by Hilton’ hotel.

The planning application details that the cemetery will be built on undeveloped agricultural land, lying within the greenbelt.

It adds: ‘The site is of an undulating nature, with levels rising steeply in a southerly direction.’

In order to build the cemetery, The Issa Foundation said that ‘extensive landscaping, both of a strategic and ornamental nature’ will be required.

It also noted that ‘levelling is required to allow for the formation of level graves and retaining structures will be necessary to the south side of the Southern most road.’

On the site, a main administration single-story building will house the ‘funeral parlour (Ghusal area where the body is washed), prayer pavilions comprising of prayer halls, condolence rooms and ablutions area’.

A staff and general maintenance building and a separate equipment store building, both of which are two storeys, will also be constructed.

The planning statement further states: ‘The buildings will be constructed predominantly from natural stone, with some areas timber cladding to the staff / maintenance building.’

‘Their overall appearance is contemporary, simplistic and of a high-quality architectural finish, yet respecting local character through the use of locally distinctive materials.

‘Combined, the buildings have a total internal floorspace of 1,446 sqm (excludes storage compound).’

It adds that they will also be ‘located as close as possible to the site’s northern boundary to limit their visual impact.’

The statement says that the ‘site lies close to three Grade II Listed buildings; Knuzden Hall and the attached Knuzden Hall Farmhouse to the south and Stanhill Hall to the south east.

‘The site’s South Eastern boundary also lies adjacent to (but outside of) the Stanhill Conservation Area.’

But it concludes: ‘Whilst some degree of harm has been found to the setting of two Grade II Listed buildings, this harm is tempered by the significant public benefits on offer.’

Presently, the main cemeteries in the area are at Pleasington in Blackburn and Burnley Road in Accrington.

The Foundation said that this new development is aimed at Muslim communities across East Lancashire, serving them for the next 50 to 100 years.

The Issa Foundation was established in 2016 as a not-for-profit charity.

The services it provides will include all the transport arrangements for the deceased.

This will include the pick up of the Janaza (deceased) from the home, hospital or mortuary, transport to the local mosque or Ghusal (washing) facility, where the Ghusal and shrouding will be performed, and then the final transport to the cemetery.

The burial plots would be set oriented ‘towards Qibla’ – Mecca as is Islamic tradition.

All proceeds from the business will be utilised to provide ongoing funeral services within the Muslim Community and none of the directors or the volunteers will benefit financially from the service it offered.

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