A loan to refurbish a Buddhist temple

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Large buildings often experience several changes of use over their lifetime. One such property in Leeds was originally two separate family homes. In the 1970s, it was redeveloped into a large hotel. And now it’s a Buddhist temple, home to Wat Buddharam Leeds.

The Buddhist group bought its temple in 2014. Several monks now call it home and it receives thousands of visitors every year from across the UK.

Recent renovation work was funded with the help of a Charity Bank loan. Project manager Edward Batty shares his experience of the loan process.

Can you tell us about the project?

The temple needed external repairs. The slate roof needed stripping and reslating; the masonry needed repairing; and the original sliding sash windows needed overhauling and repainting.

The work had to be done urgently because the building was in such a poor state of repair. It was going to cost a big chunk of money and Wat Buddharam Leeds didn’t have time to raise enough from the community, so they approached Charity Bank.

Did Wat Buddharam Leeds approach a few different banks? Or did they go straight to Charity Bank?

They reviewed options, but Charity Bank was recommended to them. The bank has experience with religious organisations, so it has an extra level of understanding that you wouldn't get with a normal high street bank.

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Did Wat Buddharam Leeds have any concerns about taking out a loan?

The abbot (the monk in charge of the temple) has a cash flow plan for paying the loan back, based on future events and various donors.

How did you find the process of applying for the loan?

I think the loan application process was reasonable but dealing with the solicitors’ questions afterwards was laborious. The property enquiry form had around 140 questions about the building, its history, what work had been done and what planning permissions had been sought in the past. It was very laborious to fill all that in. But that was down to the solicitors rather than the bank.

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Was Charity Bank able to help with any of that?

It was all things that we had to do on our side, but we were able to call Jeremy Ince at Charity Bank when needed. It was very helpful having Jeremy on the other end of the phone – making sure the money was transferred over to our account in time to pay the contractors. Charity Bank has people based locally across the UK. Jeremy lives quite near to the temple so was able to come out to visit it after lockdown.

What’s next for Wat Buddharam Leeds?

They’re fundraising to refurbish the basement. The plan is to convert it into classrooms to teach everything from meditation, Thai massage and chanting to Sunday school.

What would you say to other religious organisations that are thinking of taking out a loan?

I'd recommend approaching Charity Bank for a consultation. It’s a good lender; you have a dedicated person to speak to and they're geared up to dealing with charities and religious groups. They understand that it's not just about profit; it's about serving a community.

Charity Bank has agreed loans to numerous religious organisations. Please call us on 01732 441919.

About Charity Bank

Charity Bank is the loans and savings bank owned by and committed to supporting the social sector. Since 2002, we have used our savers’ money to make more than 1000 loans totalling over £350m to housing, education, social care, community and other social purpose organisations.

Find out more about us here.

Nothing in this article constitutes an invitation to engage in investment activity nor is it advice or a recommendation and professional advice should be taken before any course of action is pursued.