Birmingham & Black Country

Dudley Council mosque refusal is 'Islamophobic'

A computer generated image of the proposed Dudley Mosque
Image caption Councillor Tim Wright said the design of the mosque would be out of keeping with other buildings

Plans for a new mosque and community centre in the West Midlands have been turned down for the second time.

Dudley Council refused permission on Monday for the buildings measuring 6,415 m sq.

Dr Kurshid Ahmed, chairman of the town's Muslim association, said the decision was "Islamophobic".

The council said its decision was based solely on planning reasons as the scale and design of the building would be out of keeping with buildings in the area.

The council originally refused outline planning permission for the Hall Street mosque in February 2007 on the basis the land had already been designated exclusively for employment use under the council's unitary development plan.

'Not surprised'

A planning inspectorate overturned the council's reason for refusing outline planning approval in July 2008.

The council fought the decision in the High Court in July 2009 and lost.

Full plans for a mosque and community centre went before Dudley planning committee on Monday night but were rejected.

Dr Ahmed said: "Obviously I am disappointed but certainly not surprised because decisions in Dudley Planning committee are driven by the influence of bigotry, racism and Islamophobia."

Dr Ahmed said he was aware that the proposed buildings had been described by some councillors as "an alien feature" and "a blot on the landscape".

He added: "There's not really any planning consideration as the two comments that you've just referred to suggest, so it is a decision based on people's prejudices against Islam.

"They don't want to see a mosque or they see it as a blot, they see it as completely out of character, which means that they are still living in some historical context and don't see the globalisation of today and Dudley as part of that."

'Passed two mosques'

Dr Ahmed said it was evidence that council policy was being determined on the basis of anti-Muslim prejudices and described it as "institutional Islamophobia".

Tim Wright, deputy leader of the Conservative-run council, denied the decision meant the council was Islamophobic.

He said five of the nine members of the planning committee had been on the committee previously when he was its chairman.

He said: "To my knowledge, over the time that I was there, we passed two mosques so how can that be Islamophobia?

"It doesn't matter whether it's a mosque, whether it's a school, whether it's office block, whether it's a private house, in planning law it's a building.

"And basically the refusal was because... its overall scale, mass and design was out of keeping with what is in Dudley."

Dudley Muslim Associates, which submitted the plan, has three years to submit an alternative before the outline planning approval expires.

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