CONTROVERSIAL plans for a large mosque in Dudley look to be over after supporters lost a legal battle.
The Dudley Muslim Association (DMA) failed in an appeal to the High Court against a ruling striking out its case against action by Dudley Council to reclaim the proposed site on Hall Street.
Deputy Judge David Halpern QC said he was left with an "uncomfortable feeling" that the association may have been able to resist the council's claim but had failed to submit a proper case.
Plans for the mosque and community centre began in 1997 and the DMA was granted a lease for the site in 2003 having earlier been told by Dudley’s chief planning officer in 2000 that it was suitable for planning permission.
The DMA took over the freehold on site in 2005 on condition the council would take back control if the project was not completed by 2008.
However, while DMA applied promptly for planning consent, delays occurred - which the council's former chief executive, Andrew Sparkes, conceded were "largely due to fault, though not deliberate wrongdoing" on the part of the council.
The council then rejected a DMA planning application in 2007 however the decision was overturned on appeal a year later and the council failed in a legal challenge to that decision in July 2009.
The deadline for the lease was by then expired and in November 2010 the council began legal action to reclaim the site.
In 2012 the DMA’s defence against repossession was struck out after a judge concluded it had no realistic chance of success however the association appealed, arguing the council had said in a letter in 2006 they would set a later deadline to sort out planning issues.
As he rejected the latest appeal, the judge said: “I am left with the uncomfortable feeling that DMA might conceivably have had a real prospect of successfully defending this claim, if it had served a credible and properly particularised defence.”
The judge added the DMA may have won if it had argued that it spent substantial time and money on the basis of the 2006 letter or that there had been an abuse of power.”
He also stressed that while the council may be criticised for its actions in the early years of the row it had behaved impeccably during the current case.
After the ruling , DMA chairman, Dr Khurshid Ahmed, said he had not yet read the judgement in detail and would not comment until he had.