The Mail on Sunday reports that a Muslim businessman is erecting a giant mosque in the center of London’s entertainment quarter.
The three-story house of prayer and Islamic center will be built within the Trocadero, a building between Piccadilly Circus and Soho, by property mogul Asif Aziz, 56, also known as “Mr. West End.”
The 2006 closure of a Metro theater left a three-story area empty, which will be filled with a house of prayer with a 390 worshiper capacity.
Previous proposals for a 1,000-capacity mosque on the site were withdrawn in 2020 following a backlash from residents as well as far-right groups.
But a planning application for a smaller development was approved at the end of May by Westminster Council.
A council spokesperson confirmed to The Mail on Sunday: ‘A planning application by the Aziz Foundation to convert a part of the London Trocadero was approved by the council’s planning committee in May 2023.’
It is thought that the mosque – which may be called ‘Piccadilly Prayer Space’ – could be open within months. But critics have questioned whether it should be built in an area filled with alcohol-serving bars, nightclubs and Soho’s gay venues and strip joints – all of which are shunned by Islam as sinful.
Malawian-born Mr Aziz, who owns a property portfolio of over £2billion and bought the Trocadero itself for more than £220million in 2005, is founding the mosque through his charitable arm, the Aziz Foundation.
Built in 1896, the Trocadero is one of central London’s most famous entertainment complexes and also features an 11-storey, 490-room hotel called the Zedwell.
The building closed in 1965, ending its nearly seven-decade life as a restaurant.
It then reopened as an exhibition space in 1984, keeping its famed baroque façade, before arcade-style attractions were added in 1996.
Sponsorship from Pepsi and Sega helped the centre grow substantially through the late 1990s.
By 1997, the Trocadero was home to the UK’s first 3D IMAX cinema.
Visitor numbers did not grow in step with the investment, however, and Sega backed away from sponsorship in 1999.
Segaworld was rebranded as Funland, the name it kept until it closed in 2011.
Five years after Pepsi stepped back from the Trocadero, Asif Aziz’s property company Criterion Capital bought up the building and shared plans to redevelop it.
Westminster Council approved the decision in 2012 but the Trocadero never again reached the same heights.
In 2020, plans were finally submitted to turn the basement into a mosque, which were withdrawn the first time around.
Now, the Aziz Foundation said the mosque will serve Muslims who work in the area, as well as those visiting London as tourists.
Mr Aziz was described as Britain’s ‘meanest landlord’ at the height of the Covid lockdowns after threatening West End tenants, including chains like Caffe Concerto, with winding-up petitions if they did not pay their rent on time.
In 2017, the tycoon argued at the High Court that his estranged wife was not entitled to his then estimated £1.1billion fortune as they faked a marriage certificate in Malawi in order to bring an adopted child to the UK.
They couple reached an out-of-court settlement shortly afterwards.