03:22PM, Thursday 06 July 2017
Controversial plans for a Hindu community centre were thrown out by the Royal Borough last night (Wednesday).
More than 100 members of the public crammed into Maidenhead Town Hall’s Desborough Theatre to see the scheme debated.
And after about an hour-and-a-half of discussion, councillors voted to reject the proposal for the Boulters Lock Car Park site, in Lower Cookham Road, with five opposed and the remaining three members of the committee abstaining.
Cllr Adam Smith (Con, Riverside) said he was concerned about 'a certain sense of pre-determination' over the centre, as well as a 'degree of bias' in its favour.
In February, full council agreed to give the Hindu Society of Maidenhead (HSM) a 125-year lease for the land for £73,000, on condition of planning permission being gained.
The impact on parking and traffic was a major issue for Cllr Smith, who also came to the meeting with the findings of his own parking survey.
"Approval most take into account the right picture," he added.
"It should not have an unacceptable effect on the road network and it should not have a detrimental effect on the safety of residents.
"This is too irresponsible a risk for a responsible authority to countenance."
Cllr Smith's fellow ward councillors Cllr Judith Diment and Cllr Simon Dudley, the leader of the council, also spoke, despite not being members of the panel and therefore unable to vote.
Cllr Diment claimed the plans were for a Hindu temple, not a community centre, while Cllr Dudley seemed to row back on his previous support by raising his own parking concerns.
The scheme was backed by Cllr Asghar Majeed (Con, Oldfield), another councillor who chose to speak despite not being a member of the committee.
Voicing his support, he said: "The facilities will be of benefit to our mothers, the elderly, our children and people like me looking for a healthier lifestyle.
"It will also maintain a vibrant economy.
"In an area where pubs are closing and there's a lack of meeting places, these community centres help bring our communities together and help us resolve issues which raise their ugly head."
Referencing his own childhood in Yorkshire growing up near a fish and chip shop, he also attempted to assuage fears about 'the smell of curry', saying assessments on noise and smell impact would be completed before final approval could be granted.
Cllr Hari Sharma (Con, Furze Platt) was another non-panel member who spoke in favour of the scheme, although heckling from members of the public prompted committee chairman Cllr David Burbage (Con, Bray) to threaten to hold the meeting in private if it didn’t stop.
How councillors voted on the motion to reject the application:
Cllr David Burbage (Con, Bray) (chairman) – Abstain
Cllr Clive Bullock (Con, Cox Green) – For
Cllr Maureen Hunt (Con, Hurley and Walthams) – For
Cllr Richard Kellaway (Con, Bisham and Cookham) – For
Cllr Philip Love (Con, Belmont) – Abstain
Cllr Claire Stretton (Ind Con, Boyn Hill) – For
Cllr Adam Smith (Con, Maidenhead Riverside) – For
Cllr Derek Wilson (Con, Oldfield) - Abstain
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