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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 January, 2004, 16:42 GMT
Buddhist's battle to meditate
Edward James
Mr James had searched for years to find the perfect location
A Buddhist from Essex was forced to apply for planning permission to meditate in his own patch of woodland.

Edward James, 51, from Westcliff-on-Sea, wanted to use North Wood near Hockley to practice his religion with friends.

As a Buddhist, Mr James hoped to use the site, which overlooks a river, as his path to enlightenment, but found his route was blocked by local planners.

A complaint from a nearby landowner alerted Rochford District Council to his meditation and the planning department stepped in.

Searched for years

Mr James was told his meditation would require the authority's consent as it was a change of use for the land.

"It all got ridiculously out of hand," he said.

"I searched for a suitable piece of land for years before finding this one."

The council has now agreed to the change of use, but the whole episode has left Mr James saddened.

"If I had known how difficult it was going to be, all the paperwork that it involved and the battles that I have had to fight, I would be tempted to say I would not have bothered.

Test of commitment

"But I think in the end I would have moved heaven and high water to reach my goal.

"It has certainly been a test of my commitment."

Shaun Scrutton, the council's head of planning, said there was no "mystery" about the situation, just an application of the rules.

"Planning is about the use of land and on this occasion the proposals were for an organised permanent use and that required planning consent from the authority," he said.

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