A RELIGIOUS group have won a battle to have their own community centre in Maidenhead - following years of opposition from residents.

Maidenhead Hindu Society has long had its eye on the plot of land next to Boulter’s Lock car park in Lower Cookham Road that has gone unused, but residents from the area opposed the plans and argued that it would be better used for either car parking or allotments.

However, at a council meeting on Tuesday evening, the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead took what council leader Simon Dudley described as a ‘great opportunity’ to reach out to a large section of the community and gave the Hindu Society’s project the green light.

Cheering rang out from sections of Desborough Theatre in Maidenhead Town Hall as councillors voted heavily in the society’s favour.

Following the meeting, jubilant members of the society congratulated each other for their efforts.

Rajinder Sharma, a member, said: “It feels terrific. This decision feels like the borough are reaching out and welcoming us into their society.

“We have been fighting for this for 11 years and now we finally will have a place we can call ours.

“We want to assure the rest of the community that this is not just for us - this is for everyone in the town of Maidenhead,” he added.

“We want to live peacefully with the rest of the town and now we can contribute more to a peaceful, harmonious community.”

Not everyone was happy about the decision, however, with members of the Boulter’s Riverside Community Interest Company campaigning for the land to be used as a car park.

Boos and cries of ‘stupid’ were heard from a minority during the debate following some remarks made in favour of the Hindu Society’s plan.

Three councillors voted in favour of turning the land into a car park, including Adam Smith (Con, Maidenhead Riverside).

He said: “It’s our duty to find the best use for the resources and I don’t think we are doing that with this community centre.”

However, council leader Simon Dudley (Con, Maidenhead Riverside) disagreed.

He said: “As a council we have to serve all the members of our community. The nearest Hindu centre is in Slough, and that’s not acceptable for us to expect members of our community to not have a centre of their own.

“We can’t keep putting car parks everywhere.

“This is an opportunity for us to reach out and show how accepting and how tolerant we are as a society and a community.”