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Council wins in Court of Appeal over transfer of land earmarked for mosque

A West Midlands council has won a Court of Appeal battle over land earmarked for a replacement mosque.

The case of Dudley Muslim Association v Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council [2015] EWCA Civ 1123 (05 November 2015) revolved around a site at Hall Street in Dudley.

The Dudley Muslim Association (DMA) currently occupies a mosque at a site in Castle Hill. This site is inadequate for the needs of the community and so the DMA has been trying to build a new mosque for 20 years.

In 2003 Dudley Council granted the DMA a 99-year lease of the Hall Street site. The site did not have planning permission for the new mosque, however, and a clause in the contract said the land would transfer back to the local authority if the proposed development was not completed by the end of 2008.

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The DMA won planning permission for the site on appeal, but the long-stop date for completion of the development passed.

In October 2010 the council called on the DMA to comply with its obligation to re-transfer the site.

A long-running dispute over enforcement of the covenant then ensued, with the High Court ruling in Dudley Council’s favour.

The DMA made a £325,000 settlement offer for the land but Dudley’s Cabinet rejected this in August this year after receiving a report from the authority’s Overview and Scrutiny Management Board.

At issue before the Court of Appeal was whether the dispute between the parties should be allowed to go to trial.

Lord Justice Lewison, giving the unanimous judgment of the court, said the case was “a sad story” but he agreed that the case should be stopped at this stage. The judgment can be viewed here

The Court of Appeal also ordered the Association to pay the council’s costs.

Cllr Pete Lowe, Dudley’s Leader, said: “We welcome the unanimous ruling which made it clear that the council has always acted lawfully and reasonably throughout this process.

“Our open and transparent scrutiny process, supported by all political parties, was crucial in enabling the cabinet to make informed decisions. I hope we can now put this long running issue behind us and move forward in the best interests of the town.

“We have set out very clearly our intention to support the DMA in finding an alternative site. Our door remains open and we will continue to offer to work with the DMA.”

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