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Councillor and Boulters Lock campaigner in war of words over Hindu centre appeal

Fallout from the planning hearing of a proposed Hindu centre at Boulters Lock continued after a councillor hit back at accusations of a conflict of interest.

Cllr Hari Sharma (Con, Furze Platt) insisted he represented all residents of the borough after the chairman of Boulters Riverside Community Interest Company, which opposes the planned development, made the criticism.

Cllr Sharma sat with members of the Hindu Society, which is behind the plans to build the centre on land off the Boulters Lock car park in Lower Cookham Road, at the hearing on Wednesday, September 5. The society has appealed the council’s decision to turn down planning permission for the centre last year.

Mick Jarvis, the chairman of Boulters Riverside, contacted the Advertiser this week to say Cllr Sharma was ‘supporting the Maidenhead Hindu Society appeal in direct opposition to a valid council decision taken July 5, 2017, to reject planning permission for the Hindu temple’.

“As an elected councillor he has a duty to support council decisions when validly taken, especially when he introduces himself at a public meeting as an RBWM councillor,” he said.

Cllr Sharma should be punished by the Conservatives for ‘disloyalty to party, colleagues and the council’, he added, by having the Tory whip withdrawn from him.

Boulters Riverside was formed by residents who live near to the planned development site to fight the application. They are concerned a centre would be inappropriate due to flood risk, increase parking problems in the car park and affect wildlife.

Mr Jarvis also criticised what he described as Cllr Sharma descending ‘to personal smears and insults’ at the hearing, held at Maidenhead Town Hall.

That related to comments made by Cllr Sharma to Cllr Adam Smith (Con, Riverside), who spoke at the hearing on behalf of the Royal Borough and presented data which shows how the car park fills up on sunny days.

Mr Jarvis also described Cllr Sharma as an ‘active member’ of the Hindu Society, which he said was a ‘clear conflict of interest’.

But Cllr Sharma said he is not an active member, though he used to be a patron of the society.

He insisted he supports all groups in Maidenhead and added that he would wait for the outcome of the society’s appeal before responding to Mr Jarvis’ comments further.

He added that he had accused Cllr Smith of having a conflict of interest because he owns a house in the Riverside area, and said: “We must be transparent and open with the residents.”

Speaking to the Advertiser yesterday, Cllr Smith said he had previously declared his interest at the ‘original planning meeting’ and that he ‘of course’ owned a house in Riverside as it is his ward and added that he is happy for his data to be challenged on an ‘evidential basis’ but had not seen that.

A decision on the appeal is not due for about a month.

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