13 March 2024

If Jaipur Restaurant
is demolished,
Milton Keynes loses
a unique taste of India

The former Jaipur Restaurant on the corner of Grafton Gate and Avebury Boulevard in Milton Keynes … closed since 2022 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Patrick Comerford

Milton Keynes may be about to lose one of its most curious landmarks and a unique architectural work on a prominent, busy city centre corner. Since I moved here two years ago, I have been captivated by the former Jaipur Restaurant on the busy corner of Grafton Gate and Avebury Boulevard, a few hundred paces from Milton Keynes Central train station to the south-west.

With its elegant domed-roof, its covered balconies, verandas and colonnades, the building looks like it has been transplanted from India’s majestic past and the places of the maharajas.

Jaipur is the capital and the largest city of the Indian state of Rajasthan. The city, with a population of 3.1 million, is the tenth largest city in India. Jaipur is also known as the ‘Pink City’ because of the colour scheme of buildings in old city.

Jaipur was founded in 1727 by Sawai Jai Singh, the Kachhwaha Rajput ruler of Amer, who gave the city its name. It is one of the earliest planned cities of modern India, and during the days of the Raj the city was the capital of Jaipur State.

Jaipur is a popular tourist destination and is part of the west Golden triangle along with Delhi and Agra. It has two World heritage sites and is included on the World Heritage Cities list.

The Jaipur restaurant in Milton Keynes was built in the style of an Indian palace or temple, with a dome, covered balconies and verandas inspired by the Chandra Mahal, or Palace of the Moon, still the palatial home of the Maharajas of Jaipur.

The Chandra Mahal, or Palace of the Moon, the palatial home of the Maharajas of Jaipur, inspired the design of the Jaipur restaurant in Milton Keynes (Photograph: Jakub Hałun / Wikipedia / CC BY-SA 4.0)

When the Jaipur restaurant opened in 2002, it was said to be the largest purpose-built Indian restaurant in the world. At the time, it was owned by Abdul Ahad, a high profile member of the Bangladeshi community, who dubbed the Jaipur not his ‘Chandra Mahal’ but his own ‘mini Taj Mahal.’

The building housed the Jaipur Indian restaurant on the ground floor and the Orchid Lounge Thai restaurant upstairs. It was a busy and popular venue, and also become a well-known wedding venue. Inside, the Jaipur had luxurious decor and opulent architectural features, including a curved staircase, a beautiful chandelier and a raised domed roof light, as well as an ornate veranda and a number of balcony areas.

The company was put into liquidation at the end of 2014, owing substantial debts. But it was bought back two months later, in January 2015, for more than £1 million by a consortium led by Adbul Ahad, who reopened the restaurant.

Jaipur closed suddenly in 2018. When it re-opened it was as a late-night cocktail and clubbing venue housing the Atesh bar and restaurant.

But on the day after Christmas Day, 26 December 2021, Nagiib Maxamed (28) was fatally stabbed outside the premises during a party. He died in hospital from his wounds two days later, on 28 December 2021. The venue’s drink licence was subsequently suspended by Milton Keynes Council and it closed down completely shortly after.

The dome, covered balconies and verandas of the Jaipur restaurant were inspired by the Chandra Mahal, the palace of the Maharajas of Jaipur (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

The former Jaipur building has remained closed for the past two years, and developers have now proposed building a 33-storey apartment block on the site, with the proposed name of Jaipur Tower.

The application by Smith Jenkins Planning and Heritage on behalf of Galliford Try Investments seeks full planning permission for a 33-storey high-rise residential tower block with 302 built-to-rent apartments, ranging from one- to two-bedroom flats to accommodate one to four people.

The proposals include communal spaces that could include a gym and co-working spaces, two rooftop terraces on the ninth and 29th floors, and commercial use at ground floor and mezzanine floor level. According to the planning application, this would be a car-free development and no car parking spaces are included in the plans.

The proposed tower block would be one of the tallest buildings in Milton Keynes. Reports say the planning application has prompted many objections from nearby residents, who have describes the proposal as ‘hideous,’ ‘unsightly’ and out of character with the area.

The site is beside the 10-storey Premier Inn hotel, with a ground floor restaurant and bar. The Premier Inn says the tower block would result in ‘direct adverse impacts and potential risks to the hotel, as well as lack of light and privacy for guests.’

Residents in neighbouring areas and estates say the development would impact on their roads and infrastructure – and would be a blot on the landscape at the city centre, changing the character of the area and the view.

The Jaipur building has been vacant since 2022 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

With its distinctive style, the Jaipur building has been well-loved locally and is still regarded as an architectural landmark. But the building has been vacant since 2022, and the application claims ‘there is little to no prospect of it being re-used as a restaurant.’

Conservation officers at Milton Keynes City Council say it is not officially considered to have special heritage value, and it has never been considered as a heritage asset. A report says this rules out any heritage objections to the redevelopment of the site.

Despite an original planning principle in Milton Keynes that no building could be higher than the tallest tree, a worrying precedent was set in 2021 when planning permission was granted for a 33-storey ‘vertical village’ block with 288 apartments as part of the redevelopment of Saxon Court, the council’s former housing offices.

Milton Keynes is fast becoming a city of skyscrapers, and may soon lose one of its unique architectural landmarks.

The Jaipur restaurant in Milton Keynes was said to be the largest purpose-built Indian restaurant in the world (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Daily prayer in Lent with
early English saints:
29, 13 March 2024,
Saint Alphege of Canterbury

The site of Saint Alphege or Saint Alphage London Wall, also known as Saint Alphege Cripplegate (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Lent began four weeks ago on Ash Wednesday (14 February 2024), and this week began with the Fourth Sunday in Lent (Lent IV), also known as Laetare Sunday and Mothering Sunday or Mother’s Day (10 March 2024).

Throughout Lent this year, I am taking time each morning to reflect on the lives of early, pre-Reformation English saints commemorated in the Calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship.

I am taking part in a meeting of local clergy later this morning in Water Eaton, and later this evening hope to take part in a choir rehearsal in Stony Stratford. But, before this day begins, I am taking some quiet time this morning for reflection, prayer and reading in these ways:

1, A reflection on an early, pre-Reformation English saint;

2, today’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

The west end of Bath Abbey … Saint Dunstan called on Saint Alphege to be Abbot of Bath (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Early English pre-Reformation saints: 29, Saint Alphege of Canterbury

Saint Alphege of Canterbury (1012), Martyr, is commemorated in Common Worship on 19 April. He became a monk at Deerhurst near Gloucester and withdrew in later life to be a hermit in Somerset. Saint Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury, called him back to be Abbot of Bath and, in 984, Bishop of Winchester.

Saint Alphege became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1005. His austere life and lavish almsgiving made him a revered and much-loved man. In the year 1011, the Danes overran south-east England, taking Alphege prisoner. They put the enormous ransom of £3,000 on his head, but Alphege refused to pay it and forbade anyone from doing so, knowing that it would impoverish the ordinary people even more. He was brutally murdered by his captors at Greenwich on 19 April 1012.

Saint Dunstan depicted in a stained glass window in Saint Dunstan-in-the-West Church, London … he called Alphege back to be Abbot of Bath and then Bishop of Winchester (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

John 5: 17-30 (NRSVA):

17 But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is still working, and I also am working.’ 18 For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God.

19 Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. 20 The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished. 21 Indeed, just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomsoever he wishes. 22 The Father judges no one but has given all judgement to the Son, 23 so that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father. Anyone who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father who sent him. 24 Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgement, but has passed from death to life.

25 ‘Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself; 27 and he has given him authority to execute judgement, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not be astonished at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and will come out – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.

30 ‘I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge; and my judgement is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me.’

The outline of the mediaeval church marked out in Saint Alphage Gardens in London (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s Prayers (Wednesday 13 March 2024):

The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), is ‘Lent Reflection: JustMoney Movement.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday by Matt Ceaser, Movement Builder, JustMoney Movement.

The USPG Prayer Diary today (13 March 2024) invites us to pray in these words:

Oh Lord, may you keep our minds open and our hearts generous.

The Collect:

Merciful Lord,
absolve your people from their offences,
that through your bountiful goodness
we may all be delivered from the chains of those sins
which by our frailty we have committed;
grant this, heavenly Father,
for Jesus Christ’s sake, our blessed Lord and Saviour,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Post-Communion Prayer:

Lord God,
whose blessed Son our Saviour
gave his back to the smiters
and did not hide his face from shame:
give us grace to endure the sufferings of this present time
with sure confidence in the glory that shall be revealed;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Additional Collect:

Merciful Lord,
you know our struggle to serve you:
when sin spoils our lives
and overshadows our hearts,
come to our aid
and turn us back to you again;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Yesterday: Saint Dunstan of Canterbury

Tomorrow: Saint Edward the Confessor

Bath Abbey seen above the city’s ancient Roman baths (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org