However, hundreds of people have been gathering in Thurncourt Road, on Leicester’s Thurnby Lodge estate, for some weeks now to protest against an Islamic charity’s plan to turn a disused Scout hut into a community centre and prayer room.
On Friday, the number of people taking part swelled towards the 400 mark – with about 50 police officers there to oversee it.
The Leicester Mercury has spoken to people on both sides of the debate and to the city council, which is working to resolve the dispute.
The building at the heart of this is the Scout hut in Nursery Road.
The Scout Association paid for the hut to be built in 1974 and it was a busy base for the movement for almost 30 years.
However, the decision to close it was taken 10 years ago.
Peter Hardy, the association’s deputy district commissioner, said: “Unfortunately, the leaders who had given great service to the Thurnby Lodge group for many years decided to step down. We tried to find new leaders in the community but there was no response.”
After its closure in May 2002, the building lay all but unused, apart from some occasional use by other groups.
It became the centre of the current dispute earlier this year when it became apparent that a charity, the As-Salaam Trust, had stepped forward and wanted to turn it into a community centre.
The trust indicated last week that it would open the centre to the wider community and indicated it would consider reviving the Scout group if there was sufficient local support.
Its members have been meeting at the neighbouring community centre in Thurncourt Road for the past two and a half years. Those meetings have been the focus of the recent protests – which have coincided with the holy month of Ramadan. Residents involved in the protests – some of which have lasted long into the night – insist their argument is with the city council, not the trust.
They believe local people’s suggestions for other uses of the building – including a combination of boxing club, gym and dance studio – have not been taken seriously.
City mayor Sir Peter Soulsby and his team say they are talking to the people behind that proposal and hope to find a suitable venue for it in the same area.
The council said it contacted 100 community groups who previously said they needed a new base, to tell them the building could be available. As-Salaam came forward at that point.
The protesters also believe the proposed community centre would bring extra traffic to the area, particularly as it is in a narrow road which is also a bus route.
Maxine Williams, licensee of the neighbouring Stirrup Cup pub, has been at the centre of the group which is organising the protests. She said the protesters’ anger was not directed at the Muslim group.
She said: “It all started when someone at the community centre got an e-mail about the Scout hut.
“When it became clear what was happening, we did the correct thing and put a petition forward because we wanted a say over what was happening in our community. There was no consultation and no notices put up in the street, so people felt they weren’t being told what was going on.”
The future of the Scout hut was to be discussed at the area’s regular ward meeting last month. So many people turned up that the meeting was abandoned because it would have breached the building’s capacity.
The abandonment of the meeting and the subsequent decision to cancel a ward councillors’ surgery a few weeks later angered people.
Residents have said they will continue to stage their street protests, although last Friday’s, which drew up to 400 people, was the “big one”.
At times, between 30 and 50 police officers have been drafted in to oversee the protests. No arrests have been made. Vanessa McKinnon took part in Friday’s protest.
The 40-year-old mum and grandmother to a one-year-old boy, said: “I didn’t know that As-Salaam have been praying at the community centre for two and a half years but I can understand why they are looking for a permanent home. But people feel that they already have somewhere to meet.
“A lot of them are coming from far and wide to pray here. We feel there aren’t enough things for young people on this estate and we need the council to do something about that.
“I can understand that some people from As-Salaam might be scared by the protests and that’s why I have stood on the other side of the road when I’ve been down there because I don’t want to intimidate anyone.”
Protest organisers have told the Leicester Mercury they do not welcome the attentions of outside groups such as the British National Party and the English Defence League.
BNP leader Nick Griffin made an impromptu appearance on Friday evening and, reportedly, again yesterday morning. According to eyewitnesses he was greeted with indifference.