Watford’s mayor has blasted a “political campaign by the local Conservative Party” after a 10,000-strong petition was launched to save a Hindu temple.

The Vel Murugan Temple, currently based in Woodside Playing Field’s former bowls club, is facing closure after the borough council ordered its trustees to vacate the building by September 17.

The move sparked Conservative councillor candidate Prashanth Elangovan, who is also a temple spokesperson, to start a campaign and warn it would have to close if forced out.

The town’s Tory MP Dean Russell threw his support behind the petition saying he sympathised with the community and reiterated their calls for assistance.

Watford Observer: From left to right: Easwarakumar Visuwanathan, Prashanth Elangovan, Rajen Vencatasawmy and Senturan SathiyabalasingamFrom left to right: Easwarakumar Visuwanathan, Prashanth Elangovan, Rajen Vencatasawmy and Senturan Sathiyabalasingam

But Lib Dem mayor Peter Taylor lashed out at the “political manoeuvres”, adding the Tories had ignored the facts and “simply tried to grab the headlines”.

He stressed the temple’s 2019 move was “always on the understanding this was only a temporary solution allowing them time to find a permanent building”.

“We made it absolutely clear that the bowls club is part of the huge Woodside Community Sports Village transformation, which will see outstanding new sports, leisure and community facilities brought to the area for all our residents to benefit from and enjoy.

“For the Watford Conservatives to present this as the council being unsupportive and unhelpful is so far from the truth it is breathtaking.”

Watford Observer: Watford mayor Peter TaylorWatford mayor Peter Taylor

Mr Taylor said councillors and staff offered “every assistance possible” to the trust so it could settle somewhere permanently.

“I want to continue to work constructively but won’t be drawn into these political manoeuvers, which frankly are doing a great disservice to our local Hindu community,” he added.

The temple temporarily moved from Exchange Road and the trust has been using the Horseshoe Lane premises on a Tenancy at Will contract.

But it soon became clear the former site would become housing leaving trustees heavily reliant on the new location.

The council letter, sent on August 26 and seen by the Watford Observer, warns goods and chattels must be removed by September 17 after which the locks will be changed.

Mr Elangovan said: “This minority Hindu community in Watford needs their temple to practice their faith, worship, congregate and to come to the temple for their festivals, celebrations, and important religious ceremonies that are essential to their everyday lives.

“Closing this temple will severely affect the local Hindu community in Watford, who depend on it for their faith and wellbeing especially during these difficult times.”