Council caved in over Dudley Mosque - Muslim leaders

Muslim leaders claim Dudley Council bosses ‘caved’ to opposition – including pressure from far right groups – to block its plans for a new mosque in the town. Dudley Muslim Association – DMA – has spent a decade bidding to build a mosque on overgrown disused land in Hall Street. But its plan has been left in tatters after the Court of Appeal ruled yesterday that it needs to hand the site back to the council. Five far right protests have been held in Dudley since 2010 – including three by the England Defence League – over the issue. Three of the protests took place this year but faced strong opposition from the council, community leaders, traders and police over the disruption caused. Dudley Muslim Association spokesman Amjid Raza said he believed the protests had not influenced the decision of judges but claimed they had played their part in bringing ‘bad publicity’ to the mosque bid. “The project was quite high-profile and and there was quite a lot of bad publicity,” he said. “Faced with vociferous opposition from various groups, the Dudley leadership at all levels caved in. “This leadership can regrettably take pride in preventing an otherwise respectful and co-operative community from fulfilling its ambition to build up-to-date premises in Hall Street. “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. In making the ruling, Lords Justices Lewison and Treacy and Lady Justice Gloster unanimously ruled that the contract should be respected and the council was entitled to return of the land. Lord Justice Lewison told the court the case was a ‘sad story’. He said in his judgment: “It is to be hoped that further cooperation between the parties will result in the identification and acquisition of an alternative site on which the new mosque can be built.” Dudley’s opposition Conservative group leader, Councillor Patrick Harley, said: “It was clear from the two-day scrutiny hearing that DMA had a weak case and that under the scrutiny of the court, common sense would prevail. The council under two administrations has has attempted to work with them to resolve this long standing issue. UKIP Dudley group leader, Councillor Paul Brothwood, added: “The Dudley Muslim Association should not have adopted a hostile approach and should have worked with the council instead of going through the expensive court process.” UKIP West Midlands MEP Bill Etheridge added the party had long fought the plans for the mosque as the site is ‘clearly inappropriate due to existing traffic and parking problems in the area’.