Suffolk to get a 'Peace Palace'
08:16 03 April 2008
SUPPORTERS of the controversial Maharishi Foundation flew into a new storm yesterday after it got the go-ahead for a multi-million pound, 33-bedroom “peace palace” in Suffolk.
The foundation, which argues that transcendental meditation will make the world a happier place, was accused of alienating residents in Rendlesham, near Woodbridge.
Householders are worried that an exclusive and expensive residential development has been created on the former Bentwaters air base and the foundation is not mixing with the wider community.
But the foundation said the comments were “alarmist” and it was determined to work with the Rendlesham community and listen to all views.
It was given permission yesterdayto build a 33-bedroom palace at its Garden Village by Suffolk Coastal's development control sub committee.
It once wanted to buy the airfield and use the runway for “yogic flying” but the ambitions were scaled back after it failed to agree a deal with the Ministry of Defence.
Now the foundation has built a small estate of high priced houses using ancient Vedic architecture principles and the palace will be a residential educational centre to market transcendental meditation courses.
However, Kevin Heath, chairman of Rendlesham Parish Council, said in a letter to the council: ''We are extremely concerned about a precedent being set by allowing a building of this stature to be built within the village.
''There is already talk of the building of a ''tower of invincibility' being built next. Obviously these buildings have no use to the greater community, only for followers of the Maharishi teachings.
''The followers of the Maharishi are already creating a split community within Rendlesham. Surely you must agree that intending to set up a community within a community and not integrated with the greater community is not a good idea.''
Cllr Heath added: ''It also needs to be pointed out that claims by the developer that the building will be used by the community as a whole are bunkum.
''After canvassing a number of residents within Rendlesham I can confirm that the community is largely uninterested in transcendental meditation and other activities likely to be carried on within the building.''
Cyril Fidler, a committee member, warned the parish council had given a ''fairly damning'' verdict on the Maharishi Foundation and its plans.
Phillip Dunnett, Rendlesham's district councillor, said: ''They will probably remain a community within a community and that is not good news for anyone.''
The palace will replace an education centre the foundation used to run at Badingham for 25 years.
Colin Walker, a committee member, said he had visited the Badingham headquarters when it was operating.
''I could never find anyone to talk to - whether they were meditating I do not know.”
He said there were never any problems, but added: “There did not seem to be a relationship with the community.”
Richard Johnson, spokesman for the Maharishi Foundation, said the public could use the new building. ''We have been in the area for a long time and we have a track record.
''We are very happy to work with the parish council and local representatives to ensure the issues that the (parish council) chairman has raised are addressed.”
Bob Chamberlain, a Suffolk Coastal planning officer, said issues of ''social engineering'' were not relevant to the planning application.
''I understand and acknowledge the concerns of the local community about the nature of the proposed use, but I do not think it is unacceptable,'' he said.