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Not over yet
3:30pm Tuesday 20th September 2011 in Black Country News
DEFIANT members of Dudley Muslim Association have vowed to go back to the drawing board after Dudley Council refused its latest plans for a mosque and community centre.
Members of the Development Control Committee unanimously rejected the application to build the multi-million pound building on land in Hall Street, slamming the design as “characterless”, “featureless", “inappropriate” and an “alien feature”.
DMA proposed a downsized mosque and connecting community centre in comparison to its previous application, with the mosque influenced by traditional Islamic architecture complete with a dome and minaret, while the centre featured a contemporary design with glass and panelling.
The application also included two flats, classrooms, three kitchens, conference halls and prayer areas, a gym, funeral parlour and a daytime crèche.
Despite last minute alterations and changes to the design by the DMA, councillors went along with the planning officer’s recommendation of refusal, due to the “overall scale, massing and design which fails to make a positive contribution to the character and appearance of the area.”
Cllr Geoff Southall, said: “This application has nothing worthy of note going for it at all. It is an inappropriate development on the landscape of one of the main gateways to a historic market town.
“It does not sit comfortably on the landscape like the iconic castle does. It is characterless, featureless and in part has a lack of individual identity.
“It is an alien feature in this location and has nothing to commend it.”
Cllr Margaret Wilson, also criticised the “poor design” saying: “ I was on the committee for the first application and I haven’t changed my mind from a few years ago.
“This site is on the gateway to Dudley. It is far, far too large. It doesn’t allow for any extension or improvements. I can’t see why anyone wants a building this large.
“There would be traffic chaos, there would not be enough parking. It is out of keeping with the area and it is not the right place for a building like this.”
However councillors did agree to extend the time limit for the previous outline application, which was granted by the Bristol-based Planning Inspector in 2008, which means the DMA have a further three years to submit more plans.
Speaking after the meeting, DMA spokesman Mushtaq Hussain, said he was “very disappointed” with the outcome.
He said: “Obviously I am pleased with the decision to extend the time period, but I am very disappointed with the refusal of the plans. We have had discussions with the planners and at no stage did they bring up any objections to the design, until they published the report in September leaving us little time to address them.
“But we will go back to the drawing board and I will now need to go back to the DMA, who will discuss whether we will lodge an appeal about this decision. But I am sure we will. We have gone through this before.”
In a separate matter, Dudley Council is still pursuing a bid through the High Court to buy back the Hall Street land, citing a clause in the contract which stated certain work had to be completed by the DMA by the end of December 2008. The hearing is set to be heard next year.