A SIKH temple will be demolished to make way for seven flats and a new temple building.

But at a meeting to decide the fate of the Gurdwara on London Road there were concerns about the identity of a man claiming to speak on behalf of the Sikh community's leaders.

Plans to demolish the building also drew large amounts of opposition from local residents and Sikhs who use the current Gurdwara, which is an old converted office.

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At Oxford City Council's east area planning committee on Wednesday (September 2), councillors voted by a majority to approve the demolition of the building.

The applicant, Akash Tuma, now has permission to build a block of seven flats, five of which will have two bedrooms, and two of which will have one bedroom.

Mike Rowley, city councillor for Barton and Sandhills, spoke against the application, and said the Gurdwara was the only Sikh centre in Oxfordshire.

Oxford Mail:

Mike Rowley

He added there were concerns about where worshippers would go on a temporary basis.

Dilpreet Dhanoa, speaking on behalf of Gurdwara users added: "The next nearest is an hour's drive away."

Residents of London Road and Northfield Road were concerned that the extra flats would be too large and overbearing, and that there would be noise from both the new neighbours and the Gurdwara.

Sikh worshippers meanwhile had written to the committee with worries about how their new neighbours activities, which might include smoking and drinking, would be done in close proximity to a religious centre.

The decrease in the number of parking spaces on site from ten to five was also a worry, with Ms Dhanoa saying that the number of worshippers would not decrease.

A man called Sukdev Singh Lalli spoke at the virtual meeting in favour of the new development.

He claimed to be the Gurdwara's president, and spoke via a translator called Raj Singh.

Mr Lalli said arrangements for a temporary place of worship had been made by the developer with Cheney School.

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His leadership role was thrown into doubt during the meeting, but councillors were told it did not matter who he was, as this was not a planning matter.

However, committee member Shaista Aziz said it was 'vital' that Mr Lalli was who he said he was.

Oxford Mail:

Shaista Aziz

Ms Aziz said: "We are asking for clarification on what happens to worshippers in the interim period. We are not clear who is giving us accurate answers."

Depsite concerns about the identity of Mr Lalli, the new flats and replacement Gurdwara was approved.

Planning reference 20/00856/FUL