Future of Hindu temple arch project in Cambridge’s Mill Road hangs in balance
A proposal to install a stone archway saved from a Hindu temple in public gardens looks uncertain after a council officer warned that it may have to be removed in 10 years.
Mill Road Traders bought the former temple carving, believed to be worth £500,000, for just £1 after learning it was set to be demolished when the county council refurbished the site of the former Hindu temple at the old library on Mill Road.
Since then, traders’ spokesperson Piero D’Angelico has been campaigning to have the archway erected on land owned by the city council at Ditchburn Place on Mill Road for the benefit of the community.
But after initial meetings with city councillors and council officers he has received a letter suggesting that the carvings may only be allowed in the gardens for a fixed period and would have to be removed – and the gardens re-landscaped – at the traders’ expense.
Mr D’Angelico said: “When I first read the letter I thought this was just a polite way of the council saying no to my proposal and so did other people I showed it to. It also says the traders should take on all the expense of any surveys, designs, consultant reports from structural engineers and planning consultants as well as paying for the building contractor to erect the arch.
“That will all be a lot of money and we can’t take it on ourselves but we could start fundraising for it, maybe by applying to the National Lottery.
“However, I am not going to leave the traders with the responsibility for removing the arch in a few years and all the cost of landscaping the grounds – this should be a permanent installation. It’s ridiculous! This is supposed to be a donation to the community. Once it is installed I want to sign over ownership of the carvings to the public.”
The letter from the city council outlines a list of clauses that it wants the traders to agree on before the plan can be put before councillors for a decision.
These include that Mill Road Traders insure the installation is “structurally sound and safe”; that they check the foundations won’t interfere with utilities; that an experienced building contractor with appropriate insurance completes the work; that the traders remain responsible for maintenance of the stone arch; that the traders “will remove the arch and reinstate the land to its former condition” at the end of the period granted by the council.
The letter adds: “As you are aware, the council has no funding for either officer time or any works connected with this. Councillor [Mike] Davey is looking to see if there might be any funding but in the current financial climate for local authorities, this will prove challenging. My suggested way to resolve this requires that the MRT (Mill Road Traders) raise the funds and manage any installation if approval by the council is given.”
Mr D’Angelico said: “I know the council has problems with finances but this is a lot to take on.
“This is such an important project for the community and I wanted to do something nice that people would enjoy and that would attract visitors to Mill Road.”
He has agreed to meet with officers and Cllr Mike Davey in the coming week.
Cllr Davey said: “The 10 years mentioned seem to be the point that is concerning Piero but when I spoke with our officer he said he could have put 20 years down. It is a starting point for the discussions.
“Councils can be cautious sometimes. We are going to meet to talk about the issues. We are still negotiating and we hope to find a resolution in the next fortnight.”