DUDLEY’S Muslim community is united in disappointment as hopes appear to be dashed that a £325,000 out-of-court offer could resolve a long-running dispute over land earmarked for a replacement mosque.

After a two-day hearing last month, Dudley Council’s overview and scrutiny management board recommended the authority turns down Dudley Muslim Association’s (DMA) offer for the Hall Street site – which already has planning permission to build a new place of worship and community centre.

An action group, comprising members of all political groups and DMA representatives, will instead be set up to try to resolve the long-running saga and find an appropriate alternative site for the mosque by the end of the year.

But the action group has been branded “a farce” by Councillor Shaukat Ali, a former deputy leader of the council, who has slammed the authority for bowing to “political pressures”.

A frustrated Cllr Ali told the News: “The report isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. The whole process has been lip service, this isn’t reality TV, this is life.

“This council has gone a bit too far in the way it has dealt with this particular community. The talk of setting up an action group is a farce. I was involved with a task-and-finish group for six months and nothing was achieved – what’s to say this group will achieve anything?”

He continued: “In my view, the council has been unfair on this matter throughout. There are political pressures, people feel they may lose their seats but who are they giving in to? Far right extremist people who come and disrupt our town?”

Councillor Dave Tyler, chairman of the scrutiny board, said after hearing evidence from both sides, it was clear there was “significant historical opposition” to the Hall Street site, which was “likely to be exacerbated if a development there went ahead”.

Explaining the basis of the recommendation, he said: “We did not receive any reassurance from the DMA of a completion date if the settlement had been recommended and the group’s governance and business planning around the proposals is vague.

“There was also some uncertainty as to whether the proposal was a firm offer from the DMA or subject to further consultation.”

However Amjid Raza, spokesman for DMA, said it was a “solid offer made in good faith”, adding: “It is clear the council does not wish to settle out of court so this issue still remains politicised.”

He added: “The Court of Appeal hearing is scheduled to take place in October and we hope that justice will prevail. If we win that will give us the right to appeal, it’s not the end of the story.”

Mr Raza said the proposed action group was “yet another delay tactic by the council” but leader of the council, Councillor Pete Lowe, has disputed his claim – instead calling it “a step in the right direction”.

Cllr Lowe said he believed the action group would succeed where similar groups failed as “for the first time all political parties feel the need of a replacement mosque”.

He continued: “This is a significant step in the right direction to resolve an issue that has been hanging over us for many years.”

The scrutiny process could not be faulted according to chairman of the Dudley Taxi Association, Shaz Saleem but he said the outcome was “very disappointing”, adding: “I was hoping this could end the whole thing in a positive way.”

Taxi driver Zaffar Iqbal said the recommendation was “heartbreaking” and “unfair” as he hoped it would be settled after “such a big fuss has been made about it”.

Fellow driver Waheed Murad said he believed Hall Street the best option: “I know Dudley inside out and this is the best place for the mosque. It would bring business into Dudley town centre, there would be plenty of car parking and a community centre for everyone to use, which would help bring peace and harmony to the community.”

The council’s cabinet will make a final decision about the offer on Monday (August 17).