THE leader of Dudley Council claims town residents have been given a “smack in the teeth” after a planning inspector granted permission for the £18 million mosque and community training and enterprise centre.

Following a four-day public inquiry last month into the plans for the massive project in Hall Street, Bristol-based Government inspector Philip Asquith upheld Dudley Muslim Association’s appeal against rejection of the scheme by the council.

Council Leader David Caunt said the decision showed the Government did not appreciate the depth of local opposition - despite 22,000 residents signing a petition against the plans.

He added: “The people of Dudley have been given a smack in the teeth with this decision by a Labour-funded quango and in giving Dudley Muslim Association outline planning permission for their major development, they have shown they do not appreciate local feelings.

“Local decisions should be left to local people,” he said.

However, the scheme could still hit stumbling blocks as the DMA now needs to submit detailed plans to council planners for full planning permission.

Mr Caunt explained how the DMA had “freely entered" into an legal agreement in 2003 with the council which says that if the build is not substantially completed by the end of 2008, the council has the right to reclaim the land at the original price plus inflation.

He added: “The council is now seriously looking into this possibility, as the council has 13 weeks to determine an application for full planning permission and the association will need to provide very detailed plans including a site survey and a travel plan.”

But DMA chairman Dr Khurshid Ahmed said they would “press ahead at full speed,” adding: “It is a victory for common sense in democracy.”

He added: “It is time for reconciliation. This decision has made my year.”