PLANS to knock down Oxford’s only Sikh temple have been stalled, as a review takes place.

Oxford City Council’s east area planning committee approved plans to knock down the Sikh Gurdwara on London Road in Headington at its meeting last Wednesday (September 2).

In its place, applicant Akash Tuma had been given permission to erect a new purpose-built Gurdwara - the current one is an old office building - alongside seven flats.

But now, the plan to rebuild the site has been ‘called in’ for another look by local councillor for the Barton and Sandhills ward, Mike Rowley.

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Mr Rowley said: “I initiated a call-in following the planning meeting because there was a considerable debate about who was who and what was going on. I was not confident the committee had enough time to consider all the evidence the Sikh community had.”

Oxford Mail:

City councillor Mike Rowley instigated the call-in

Call-ins are instigated when a councillor gathers signatures of other councillors because they do not think a planning application has been fully considered.

During the meeting last week, a member of the Sikh community called Sukdev Singh Lalli spoke in favour of the new development and claimed to be the president of the Gurdwara’s organising committee.

But since then, the committee’s current general secretary, Gurdip Saini, has contested this, and said Mr Lalli resigned as president two years ago.

Mr Saini added that he felt the concerns the Sikh community had about the new buildings had not been properly considered.

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These included how people living in the new flats next door to the Gurdwara could be drinking and smoking within close distance of a place of religious worship.

He added that the hours of use of the Gurdwara might also disturb new neighbours.

Mr Saini said: “The Sikh community is a peace-loving community: We don’t to be having arguments or any trouble in the area.”

Oxford Mail:

The Gurdwara used to be an office building. Picture Ed Nix

Mr Saini added he felt there had been very little communication about where the Gurdwara would be temporarily based while building work took place.

Speaking on behalf of the building’s owner, planning agent Simon Sharp said his client was ‘very mindful of these concerns’ and and had been exploring the availability of an interim Gurdwara since the meeting.

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He added: “There is no reason to believe these cannot be secured in the event that a planning permission is ultimately granted for this development and development goes ahead.

“The bigger picture is that the applicant is committed to redeveloping the site in a way that also provides a worship facility for the Gurdwara Community that is a vastly more suited to worship as well as the Gurdwara’s charitable outreach than what exists currently, within a building whose original construction never envisaged use as a community facility.”

A spokesman for Oxford City Council said: "The application that went before Planning Committee was subject to the statutory consultation process in which we consider any representations made. 

"The onus is on the applicant to carry out consultation with the community over and above any formal consultation process undertaken during the application."