Dudley Muslim Association opens last-minute talks with council over mosque plans

A Muslim group battling to build a bigger mosque in Dudley has said it may ditch a High Court appeal after opening last-minute talks with the council on alternative plans.

Dudley Muslim Association had been given leave to appeal after a court ruling in April that it must sell its development plot in Hall Street back to Dudley Council.

High Court officials said the authority could trigger a buy-back clause on the land, which it previously sold to the Association in 2005 for £20,000, because no mosque had been erected there.

But the Association, which was planning a £6 million mosque with a 62ft minaret and a greater capacity than its current Castle Hill building, told the court the council had thwarted its progress on the site by challenging its development plans.

The mosque bid had triggered violent protests in the town in 2010 by the English Defence League, which was accused by Muslims of exaggerating the minaret’s height for political ends.

Association chairman Dr Khurshid Ahmed said today that legal challenges had already cost his group £100,000, as he pondered the appeal, set for February or March 2013.

He said: “We were supposed to give the land back by May 25 this year but just before that, we got leave to appeal.

“In the meantime, the council administration has changed from Conservative to Labour. Like the previous administration, the new one wants to find a solution out of court, and we are looking at a number of options to see which might suit us.

“The extension of the current mosque is one. Changing the design of the proposals at Hall Street is another. The third is moving to another more suitable plot of land or premises. It’s very early to say.”

Dr Ahmed said the Association still had legal options if it failed in the High Court, including the Court of Appeal, the House of Lords and the European Court of Human Rights.

But he added: “We simply can’t afford it and neither can the council. We don’t want to antagonise the situation any further – we want to pull back from confrontation. There’s some willingness to come to a settlement rather than just keep on pushing our respective legal stances which will benefit nobody other than the lawyers.”

Dudley Council leader Coun David Sparks said there was “a constructive dialogue” with the Association to find a “mutually acceptable resolution” to the issue. He said he hoped a “common sense compromise solution” could be found.

Birmingham Mail, 3 October 2012