HUNDREDS of objections have scuppered plans to build two 21ft minarets and a dome on a Halesowen mosque – sparking accusations of racism.
Dudley Council planning officers refused the application from The Baitul Ghafoor Mosque, Long Lane, after a storm of protests from people living nearby.
It was thrown out before the development control committee stage in the face of a 225-name petition opposing the plans and objections from local councillors.
But residents fear their concerns the additions to the former Methodist Church would be out of keeping with the area have been interpreted as racist by some members of the Muslim community.
Tracey Willets, who lives opposite, said: “We have been branded as racist – we are not racist, we just spoke our mind.”
She and her neighbours were particularly upset by reported comments of Dr Muhammad Ashraf from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association, which operates the mosque.
He is alleged to have claimed that hatred towards the religion was more of a reason for the objections than the effects on the landscape.
Mrs Willets said: “We don’t dispute they are peace loving people but we do not want minarets and a dome built on the outside of the building that will look stupid.”
She added the controversy had “spoilt” the relationship between mosque members and the community.
Halesowen North UKIP councillor Stuart Henley warned claims such as those attributed to Dr Ashraf “will only turn people against the AMA, which is not what anyone wants”.
The association’s local president Dr Masood Majoka said his members wished to distance themselves from suggestions of racism, adding he was sure Dr Ashraf did not mean to accuse objectors of being racist.
He confirmed the association is considering appealing against the application refusal.
Dr Majoka added: "We are very disappointed about the rejection of this application especially as our architects were trying to set up a meeting with Dudley Council planners concerning altering the plans, but they were not granted a meeting and the application was refused."
Halesowen North’s Conservative councillor Karen Shakespeare and Hilary Bills for Labour, who had also campaigned against the plans, welcomed the refusal.
Cllr Shakespeare said: "The minarets would have had a strong visual impact and would have affected the skyline."
She added: "The Dudley Central Mosque scaled back its plans without any problem to its worshippers. They can enjoy worship without having turrets and domes on the building.”
Cllr Bills said: "I respect the members of the mosque for their work in the community and hope that in return they will respect the wishes of the local community most of whom, like myself, think that a dome and minarets are inappropriate additions to a well-known traditional local building."