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Council urged to avoid costly Hindu centre planning appeal

A costly battle over land earmarked for a Hindu community centre development could ensue if an agreement is not reached between the council and the project’s backers, it has been warned.

The Hindu Society of Maidenhead wants to build the centre on land next to Boulters Lock car park in Lower Cookham Road because it has no facility in the town to use.

It has drawn opposition from some residents nearby, who fear its parking provision would be inadequate and will spill over into an already packed car park.

Last year, the council voted to give the Hindu Society a 125-year lease on the land, provided the centre gained planning permission.

But in July, the council’s planning panel refused permission on the grounds the proposed parking was insufficient and the fact the plans did not demonstrate how reptiles and amphibians there would not be harmed.

The Hindu Society has appealed to the Planning Inspectorate.

It left a nearby resident, Collin Goodhew of Sheephouse Road, wondering why the council had not taken action.

Collin, who owns a building and design company and is well-versed in planning applications, said he had heard of £50,000 fees incurred by councils during planning appeals.

He urged the council to tell the Hindu Society: “We are not wasting taxpayers’ money on the appeal, we are just withdrawing the offer (of the lease).”

Asked why the council had not done that, and potentially avoided what could be a costly planning appeal, the 61-year-old said: “I have no idea.

“It is a group of individual councillors who are too frightened to do anything.

“I think they should put their hands up and say, ‘we have made a mistake’.”

Council leader Simon Dudley has said he hopes the dispute will not end up involving taxpayers’ cash and had offered a site in the town’s regeneration project instead.

“I have written to the chairman of the Hindu Society of Maidenhead indicating that we would like to discuss with them a different location in the St Cloud Way development,” he said.

He sent the letter a month ago and is waiting to hear back.

Asked if the council could withdraw the lease offer, Cllr Dudley said: “We could go back to full council to decide that this is no longer what we want to do.

“I don’t think that would be a fair way to treat the Hindu community.”

The Hindu Society has said the community centre would be open to all in Maidenhead and would also use it for religious events.

Use reference 3191002 to view the appeal on the Planning Inspectorate website. Interested party comments are due by June 21 and the hearing is set for September 5.

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