Breakthrough in Dudley mosque row

Muslim leaders say they will consider another site for a mosque in Dudley in a bid to halt a costly legal battle with the council.

Breakthrough in Dudley mosque row

They want to have fresh talks with council chiefs, despite their plans for a mosque on land off Hall Street getting the go-ahead earlier this week.

Dudley Muslim Association is locked in a legal battle with Dudley Council over the land earmarked for the 52-ft high mosque.

Despite winning planning permission the group won't be able to build unless they win a Court of Appeal hearing, which will rule on the council's bid to buy back the land.

The dispute has so far gone on for seven years and is next in court in February.

But today, Dr Khurshid Ahmed declared he wanted a sit-down with council bosses and said he would consider an alternative mosque site. He said: "I would like to see the council reflect on the whole issue and look at a number of options. One option is to continue the court hearing, which will be costly and will not solve community division, it could escalate it further.

"Second option is the council backs off from the court case and allows the community to build the mosque. The council have a third option where they can negotiate with all sides to find a viable resolution, which I think would be the sensible way forward.

"To continue with the case would cause a lot of expense on behalf of the tax payers, as well as for the Muslim association, we would rather spend the money on a mosque than solicitors.I would not rule out an alternative site if that was acceptable. For the sake of the community, if there was an alternative acceptable to the Muslim community, we would be more than happy to consider it."

Outline planning permission for the mosque, along with a community training and enterprise centre was granted in July 2008. The plan approved this week was for the full proposal, which included details on appearance and layout.

The land is owned by the association, but the council won a High Court hearing to trigger a buy-back clause for the land.

This was appealed by the association, and a hearing will take place at the Court of Appeal in February. If the council is successful the land will be transferred back into the council ownership.

If the association is successful, the matter will go to a full hearing in the High Court. John Millar, director of the urban environment, said: "The planning approval does not impact upon the council's legal obligations with regard to the ongoing legal proceedings in respect of the buy-back."

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