Monastery relabelled community centreBy Amy Taylor
March 04, 2013
PLANS are well under way for a Buddhist centre and monastery in Aldershot, after a group of fundraisers bought the former BT social club in Ordnance Road.
Owned by the Buddhist Community Centre UK (BCCUK), the plan is to turn the former BT venue, between the old fire station and the football stadium, into a Buddhist community centre and place of worship.
Spearheaded by Damar Ghale MBE, the project has been funded by a mixed group of donors, all of whom contributed at least £1,000 to become a trustee, creating a pool of £400,000 to buy the site.
Mr Ghale, who works with the BCCUK charity and its existing community centre in Camberley, said that the group had met with planning officers at Rushmoor Borough Council in February to discuss the application.
“The planning is under preparation,” he said. “It will be a Buddhist family centre and we hope the public will appreciate the good of it, and see that it is something for the community.
“We have a range of nationalities in our members, and our trustees are from all over the community, not just Nepalese people.
“It’s not for one particular group of people.”
Head of planning at Rushmoor, Keith Holland, confirmed that preliminary meetings had been held, but that he had encouraged the group to use the community centre title, rather than to call it a monastery.
“Monastery conjured up this image of a very large building on a mountain top, and clearly it’s not going to be that,” he said.
“They are looking for some kind of community facility.”
The centre will need a change of use to its licence from a social club to a place of worship, and it would need to adhere to parking and fire regulations.
Mr Ghale agreed that it would not be known as a monastery.
“There will be sign boards up with the BCCUK logo on them, and there will be a change of use to a place for prayers, but it is also for non-Buddhists,” he added.
“We want people to come and learn about Buddhism and enjoy the facility.”
He said they were looking to appoint two monks to lead services, particularly for special occasions such as weddings and funerals.