Express & Star

Dudley Mosque saga may finally be over as council wins legal battle to stop new building

Dudley Council has won its legal battle to halt plans for a mosque to be built on a controversial site in the town.


Court of Appeal judges unanimously ruled in favour of the council over its bid to buy back the land in Hall Street from the Dudley Muslim Association (DMA).

Plans first emerged for the mosque to be built back in 2003 as a replacement for Dudley Central Mosque, based in Castle Hill.

But the plans descended into a dispute between the council and the DMA after a planning application was rejected in 2007.

The ruling, which comes after a two day hearing held in London last week, states the DMA must transfer the land back to the council in January 2016.

The court has also agreed the DMA should pay the council's legal costs, which have not yet been realised.

But the authority confirmed earlier this year that it had spent £213,000 at that stage on legal fees.

The DMA is yet to confirm to the Express & Star that it has accepted the verdict to bring the long running dispute to an end.

Earlier this year, the DMA offered an out-of-court settlement to pay the council £325,000 to end the dispute and retain the land.

However, the council's cabinet rejected the offer in August after recommendations by the authority's overview and scrutiny management board following a two-day hearing.

Councillor Pete Lowe, leader of the council, said the authority now wanted to work again with the DMA to find an alternative site for the mosque.

"We welcome the unanimous ruling which made it clear that the council has always acted lawfully and reasonably throughout this process," he said.

"Our open and transparent scrutiny process, supported by all political parties, was crucial in enabling the cabinet to make informed decisions.

"I hope we can now put this long running issue behind us and move forward in the best interests of the town.

"We have set out very clearly our intention to support the DMA in finding an alternative site. Our door remains open and we will continue to offer to work with the DMA."

In response to the ruling, Dudley Muslim Association spokesman Amjid Raza said: "We are sorry to our community that we were unable to fulfil their dream of a replacement Mosque and community centre.
"Our community will now need a period of calm reflection and consider its future progress.
"We would sincerely like to thank profoundly all our fellow citizens who supported us and stood with us in our endeavours to build a new Mosque and communities facilities and stood in solidarity with us."

The legal hearings have centred on a contractual dispute dating back to 2005, when the council transferred the land at Hall Street to the DMA.

A clause in the contract stated that the land would transfer back to the council if the proposed development was not completed by the end of 2008.

Lawyers for the association had fought to stop the council seizing back land, where an empty factory stands alongside Duncan Edwards Way.

But the DMA had suffered a blow last year when the High Court blocked an appeal against an earlier ruling.

A judge had stuck out the DMA's defence against council plans to reclaim ownership of the site.

But in the latest hearing their lawyers claimed the DMA was victim of an 'abuse of power' by the council over 'delays' to obtain planning permission before the deadline set by the council.

Three far right protests have been held in the town this year, including by members of the English Defence League, in the wake of proposals for the mosque.

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