Dudley mosque debate attracts online attention

More than 1,000 people tuned in online to watch councillors discuss controversial plans for a new mosque in Dudley.

Dudley mosque debate attracts online attention
An artist's impression of the proposed mosque in Dudley

A hearing was held over a £325,000 offer from the Dudley Muslim Association (DMA) to drop court action and allow it to press on with plans to build a new mosque on Hall Street.

Hundreds of people took the opportunity to view the decision-making process over what has been a huge issue in the town, and seen far-right groups arrive from outside to stage high-profile protests.

A two-day hearing was held at Dudley Council house on July 27 and 28 as arguments for and against accepting the sum were presented to Dudley Council's overview and scrutiny committee.

The decision to screen the meeting live online was taken as bosses wanted to give as many people as possible the chance to view proceedings.

The plans to build the mosque have polarised opinion in Dudley. Three separate visits have been made by protests groups already this year, with all claiming allowing the mosque to go-ahead on that site would be unacceptable.

The saga looks set to drag on after Dudley Council bosses were advised to reject the offer at a further hearing last Friday. The council is instead set to work with the DMA to try and find an alternative site to suit everyone.

Councillor Les Jones, a former leader of the authority who was present at the hearing, said it was important people were allowed to view discussions about a matter so important to them.

He said: "In a way it makes politics more honest. There are plenty of people in all walks of life who will say one thing in front of an audience and then something else outside. You can't lie about what you said, it's great for democracy.

"I suspect some of the views were outside of the borough but of course it is a big issue in Dudley. There have been several petitions signed by several thousand people. It does divide opinion quite strongly across all sides of our community."

Councillor Jones is opposed to the mosque being built on Hall Street, and hopes costly court action can be avoided.

A High Court hearing remains scheduled for October after the DMA previously appealed a decision which would allow the council to buy back the land.

He said: "This issue has gone on for the best part of 15 years and it is a political nightmare. Nobody argues that they shouldn't have a new mosque but that is not the place for it."

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