Buddhists claim HGVs from hire company are disrupting peaceful religious retreat
- Credit: Archant
It is supposed to be a peaceful religious retreat hidden away within the Norfolk Broads.
But Buddhists from the Padmaloka centre in Surlingham claim their tranquil lifestyle is being disrupted by a parish council chairman's company.
They say heavy goods vehicles from Norfolk Plant Hire, which is owned by councillor John Broom, make too much noise as they drive past.
And they are now calling for action to be taken.
But the Brooms have accused the Buddhists, and a village residents' association, of staging a 'witch hunt' against them.
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It led to Mr Broom's wife, Sarah, and her mother, staging a peaceful protest outside the retreat to highlight the issue earlier this month.
Sanghanistha Heddle, a resident at the Padmaloka retreat, said: 'The main issue is that our shrine room is next to The Covey [road].
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'We have an open air area of worship that is also right next to the road, and when the lorries come past it does have an effect.
'We don't want to impose ourselves on the rest of the village, but peace and quiet is really important to us.'
The semi-monastic Buddhist retreat was established at Lesingham House in 1976 by the founder of the Triratna Buddhist Community, Dennis Lingwood.
It is situated off a single track road called The Covey, which also leads to Brickyard Farm, where Mr Broom's business has operated from since 2006.
Mr Heddle claimed the number of HGV's using the road had increased in recent years.
He said the issue made it 'tricky' for the Buddhist centre, especially when it holds its silent two-week retreats.
'That is where we are in silence for nine to 10 days on end,' he said. 'We do require peace and quiet for what we do.'
Mr Heddle said he would like to see fewer vehicle movements along The Covey.
The Buddhist's views have been echoed by several villagers who have formed the Surlingham Residents' Association (SRA).
They claim Mr Broom's business does not have permission to operate from his farm, citing two applications to South Norfolk Council which have been refused.
But Mr Broom, who is the chairman of Surlingham Parish Council, disagrees.
In 2009, his application for a certificate of lawful use for plant hire and machinery maintenance at the site was turned down.
But Mr Broom said he explained his operation to council officers at the time, and claimed they had been issuing him with business rates since then.
A similar application lodged in 2018 was also refused by the district council, which Mr Broom is now challenging.
He claims the backlash against his company was prompted by his application to build holiday lodges at the farm in 2016.
Mr Broom said since then, 'every man and his dog' had been 'gunning' for him.
In regard to the Padmaloka retreat, he said he had 'no axe to grind' with the Buddhists, adding he had tried to accommodate their needs.
He said: 'They asked if I could not drive between 7am and 9am [along The Covey] and I said of course.
'I am happy to talk to any of them.'
Mr Broom believed some of the animosity in the village had been due to South Norfolk Council.
'South Norfolk is undermining my position because they are making out that I am not telling the truth, when I am,' he claimed.
His wife, Mrs Broom, staged a protest outside the retreat as it held the village festival on September 1.
She said it was in response to the number of complaints from Padmaloka.
Mrs Broom, 42, said: 'The impact this has had on my family is absolutely horrific.
'They [the retreat and the residents' group] are a gang of bullies and they are trying to push us out of the village.
'I would just like to run our business from here. We would work around the retreat, which we were doing.
'John had a gentleman's agreement that our lorries would not go out at certain times, and he had tried that.'
A South Norfolk Council spokesman said: 'The council is having ongoing discussions with the site owner following the recent planning refusal and we anticipate that he will be submitting further applications to regularise the situation. However, should a further application not be forthcoming or be unsuccessful the need for taking appropriate enforcement action will be considered.'