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Sikhs lose fight to keep their temple in Cherwell Drive
OXFORD’S Sikh community must find a new place to worship after a planning inspector ruled they cannot use a Marston house as a temple.
In January last year, Oxford City Council refused an application for retrospective planning permission to change the use of 69 Cherwell Drive from a place of residence to a place of worship, following objections from neighbours.
The Sikh community’s appeal to the Government’s Planning Inspectorate was dismissed this week.
Now they have a year to stop using the semi-detached three bedroom home as a makeshift temple, and they must also demolish a single storey extension to the rear of the property, which is used as a congregation room, before the end of October.
They did not have planning consent for either.
Pargan Singh, 53, of Cherwell Drive, Marston, said the nearest Sikh temples were in Banbury, Swindon and Slough.
He said: “It’s a sad day for the Sikh community in Oxford.
“There should be some flexibility, the council should assist us in finding an alternative, we only want small help. We are not asking for a million-pound building.
“The effect on the whole community will be devastating.”
More than 100 people have joined a Facebook group to campaign against the decision, and Oxford University’s Sikh Society collected a 400-signature petition to save it.
Society president Priya Atwal, 19, said she was very disappointed by the decision.
She said: “Oxford’s homeless could be affected as free meals are offered by the temple.”
The Sikhs bought the property in February 2006 and added the extension four months later.
Last night, residents of the road welcomed the decision.
A 60-year-old woman, who asked not to be named, said: “I don’t object to them having a Sikh temple, but I do object to it being in a residential area. When they show up things get overcrowded.”
Another 68-year-old neighbour said: “On Sunday, cars are parked on the verges on both sides of the road. There is a health and safety problem with ambulance and fire engines going to the JR and Headington.
“We can’t sit in our garden in the summer because of the chanting.”
In his report, planning inspector Nigel Burrows said he had listened to the “impassioned pleas” in support of the temple, but cited traffic, road safety, noise and disturbance to residents among his concerns.
City council spokesman Louisa Dean said: “They have to stop using the building as a Sikh temple and community centre and they have 12 months from the date of the decision letter to do that.”
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