Cambridgeshire

Cambridge Hindus: Council to repossess 'only place of worship'

Cambridge Image copyright ICCA
Image caption The ICCA said it aimed to "preserve continuity of Hindu culture, customs and religion to the benefit of our future generation and broader community"

Hindus have been left "disappointed" after a court ruled a council could repossess a city's only place of worship for their religion.

The former library on Mill Road, Cambridge has been leased to the Indian Community and Culture Association (ICCA) free of charge for 20 years.

But the county council took the group to court last week after a "significant backlog of repairs" accumulated.

ICCA trustee Rajni Padia said the group was considering an appeal.

Chairman of Cambridgeshire County Council's commercial and investment committee Josh Schumann said the council "had to act to protect the fabric of this building".

Image caption The nearest other Hindu place of worship to Cambridge is 40 miles away

The council said the tenancy agreement gave the ICCA responsibility to repair and maintain the property, and the association had been aware of its poor condition when it took it on.

Mr Padia had previously said the ICCA had spent £200,000-£250,000 on its upkeep.

After concerns over damp were raised, the council said it offered to undertake repairs and spread the cost over a 25-year lease.

But they could not reach an agreement and at Cambridge County Court last week a judge ruled that the council should repossess the building within three months.

Image copyright ICCA
Image caption The building on Mill Road was taken over by the Indian Community and Culture Association in 1999

"We're not only very disappointed but very concerned that in all this we were looking for an amicable settlement," said Mr Padia.

He added that if a Cambridge alternative could not be found, the nearest Hindu place of worship was 40 miles away in Peterborough and claimed the council had denied them "our freedom to worship".

The group plans to protest against the court order on 2 November.

Mr Schumann said: "The first urgent action is now to carry out the necessary repairs to make the building safe and protect it for future use.

"Once this is done, we will assess how the building could best support the delivery of county council or partner services in and around Cambridge."

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