THE long-running legal battle over the site for a new mosque in Dudley is set to return to the courts.

Dudley Muslim Association appeared to have lost their appeal against land in Hall Street, where they planned to build a new community centre and place of worship, being seized by Dudley Council.

However a new ruling by a senior judge has opened the door for the case to be heard at the Court of Appeal later this year.

Sir Stephen Sedley found there is an "arguable" case that Dudley Council has committed an "abuse of power" in the way it treated the association.

Dudley Council claims they can take the land because the association failed to complete work on the new centre by the end of 2008, following an agreement to do so in 2003.

Sir Stephen overturned a previous High Court ruling to find the association had a legitimate expectation the council would extend the deadline but delays occurred which the council's former chief executive, Andrew Sparkes, conceded were "largely due to fault, though not deliberate wrong-doing" on the part of the council.

Sir Stephen said: "The association missed the deadline for completion of the mosque because the MBC, which had set the deadline, had in practice made it untenable by a succession of steps it took in relation to planning consent."

Councillor David Sparks, leader of Dudley Council, said: “This is the latest in a series of decisions, the majority of which have found in favour of the council.

“Our main priority has always been to act within the law for the benefit of the council tax payer."

The site is in the St Thomas’s ward and Cllr Shaukat Ali, who represents the area on the council, says a solution has to be found because the current Dudley mosque in the town centre is deteriorating and not fit for purpose.

Cllr Ali said: “We need to resolve this issue and build bridges, the judge’s comments speak for themselves, the council needs to take a proactive role. A solution can be found.”