Cambridge's only Hindu place of worship under threat

Shrine at old library in Cambridge Image copyright ICCA
Image caption The building on Mill Road is home to a Hindu shrine

A Hindu community's "right to worship" has been put under threat while the council look to repossess its Grade II listed building, a trustee has said.

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

But the county council is set to take the group to court after a "significant backlog of repairs" accumulated.

The ICCA wanted to reach an "amicable settlement", trustee Rajni Padia said.

Mr Padia said if the building was to leave the association's hands with no alternative offered, the nearest place of worship would be 40 miles away in Peterborough.

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

Cambridgeshire County Council said the tenancy agreement gave the ICCA responsibility to repair and maintain the old library, and the association had been aware of the poor condition of the building at the time it took it over in 1999.

Mr Padia said since moving into the central Cambridge building, the ICCA had spent between £200,000 and £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 after discussions an agreement could not be reached and the groups are set for a court date in October.

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

"This is not about the ICCA," Mr Padia said. "This is about 5,000 Hindus living in Cambridge to whom [the council] are denying the right to worship.

"This is the only place in Cambridge where the Hindus can go and pray."

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Josh Schumann, chairman of the council's commercial and investment committee, said the authority had no other vacant buildings to offer as an alternative.

"Our issue here is that we have been almost too accommodating to the ICCA, believing repeated assurances that they will be able to keep the building in good order.

"We have done this in all good faith, but sadly we now have to act to protect the fabric of this building which is an asset which we hold in trust for all of the people of Cambridgeshire."

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