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EXCLUSIVE BASILDON: Buddhists aim to cure 'evils of society' with 'mind training' if

A gathering at the Crays Hill temple (Pic YouTube)

AN INTERNATIONAL Buddhist group has applied for permanent permission for a temple at a former five-bedroom home, just days after it emerged Basildon Council had granted a reprieve following a lengthy planning wrangle.

Monks from the Mahamevnawa International Meditation Centre (MIMC), developed in the grounds of the house in Hardings Elms Road, Crays Hill, in early 2012, have submitted their latest retrospective planning application - this time for permanent planning permission.

The group, which originates from Sri Lanka, wants permission for a mixed use of the property, including accommodation for monks, a meditation centre with 20 parking spaces and five meditation huts.

The group, also wants to hold one public meditation event per month.

People from all walks of life visit the temple in Essex (Pic MIMC)

In a planning statement submitted to the council the group said one of its key goals was "minimising or eliminating social problems with the help of mind training from residents monks.

It said: "This society is corrupt to a great extent with socially inflicted problems, juvenile delinquency, drug addiction…and most dangerously radicalisation.

"what we try to do is to minimise or eliminate those socially engaged problems with the help of the resident monks, globally recognised Buddhist leaders, with the help of international and well-informed monks.

"We organise and deliver a service by applying doctrine and supreme teachings, which advocate the application of Buddhist principles and philosophy directly into social lives of the people who come to us with different mental disorders and conditions in search of happiness.

"We help to train their minds with deep meditation techniques to have self-control and development in the right direction."

The group says it will continue to hold just one public meditation event per month (Pic MIMC)

But there has been anger from residents over why the group was able to operate the site as a temple for several years without having any planning permission.

A retrospective planning application lodged by the group in April 2013, was not determined by the council for nearly two years.

And there are questions over why the council only made public last month the fact that it granted 18 months temporary permission to the group in February 2015.

The temple was expanded after the group bought the neighbouring bungalow to the site they now call Dhamma Land for £250,000.

Videos of events at the temple on Youtube show at least 100 people packed into the main building.

Ramsden Crays Parish Council has previously objected to earlier applications.

The council delayed making a decision on temporary permission for the temple (Pic MIMC/YouTube)

David McPherson, a Ramsden Crays parish councillor, said in late 2014: “I have no objections to their religion, but it is the effect on people in the area.

“They want parking for 20 cars, so with four or five people per car that could be 100 people visiting from outside the area.”

A Basildon Council spokesman said: “The applications would normally be decided within eight weeks of submission but were, with the full agreement of the applicants, extended to allow their unique set of circumstances and complexities to be fully considered."

The Mahamevnawa International Meditation Centre is a devout Sri Lankan branch of Buddhism, led by monk Kiribathgoda Gnanananda Thero.

It has 60 centres worldwide, 44 in Sri Lanka and four bases in the UK at Surrey, Hounslow, Watford, with Crays Hill now the headquarters.

The charity was registered with the Charity Commission in the UK in 2009.

Latest accounts show its assets in Crays Hill total around £1million and it carried forward funds of £501,235 in 2014.

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