Shipping container temple plan for Milton Keynes refused planning permission after passionate debate

    A plan to build a Hindu temple out of shipping containers was refused after a passionate debate.

    Supporters and opponents of the plan for Milton Keynes Community Foundation land in Tattenhoe lined up to have their say at yesterday’s meeting of the development control committee.

    Devotee and local resident Unnikrishna Pillai said: “The community were shocked to see the Stop The Temple campaign unleashed against the community.

    “Unfortunately the two local councillors and the parish council gave a platform for this dis harmonised campaign. I won’t call it a hate campaign.”

    He said opposition from councillors was a “gross misuse of public office”.

    “The parish council should have adopted special measures to protect the interests of this vulnerable minority community,” he said.

    Ward councillors Anthony Brown (Lab) and James Lancaster (Cons) both stood down from the committee after taking predetermined positions against the application for land at St Agnes Way.

    They both said they were supporting their residents, hundreds of whom signed a petition worried about more traffic clogging up already heavily congested roads.

    Resident and planning consultant Patrick Duffy and Cllr Chris Williams, the chairman of Shenley Brook End and Tattenhoe Parish Council, both claimed that the applicant’s website mentioned 5,000 potential devotees attending events.

    But planning agent Janet Long said the number of visitors would be far lower, between 20 and 40 people.

    Raj Kamella, of the applicant the national charity SHITAL, which has sites in other areas of the country said: “The false numbers promoted here are not true. The temple will be for local people.”

    But objectors spoke of not liking the shipping container-based construction, with Adam Kobeissi claiming it would “stick out like a sore thumb.”

    But Ms Long said it would be an “exciting addition to this part of Milton Keynes.” And the committee was told that the council’s design experts had no objections.

    Objectors also claimed that not enough alternative sites had been examined.

    But Tracy Darke, the council’s director of planning, strategic transport and placemaking said 37 land agents had been approached in the search for potential sites.

    Planning officers recommended approval.

    Cllr Paul Trendall (Lib Dem, Campbell Park & Old Woughton) said: “Almost all the objections have been based upon opinion.

    “As a quasi-judicial committee we must arrive at decisions based on verifiable evidence and not just on opinion.”

    “We should also be very mindful that this is an application to build a place of worship for one of the world’s great religions.”

    But stand-in chairman Cllr John Bint (Cons, Broughton) had concerns about the temple being a “sub-regional” destination that was constructed out of “steel boxes.”

    The committee voted by four votes to three, and three abstentions, against a motion to grant planning permission.

    Councillors then voted to refuse the plan because they believe the number of people attending the temple would have a negative impact on the residential area.

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