PLANS to knock down a Sikh temple and replace it with a new place of worship plus flats will go ahead, after being called in for a second look.

The Gurdwara on London Road, Headington, operates out of an old office building.

Landowner Akash Turna has been given permission to knock down the current temple, and replace it with a new purpose built Gurdwara alongside seven flats.

The decision follows a hubbub at a meeting in September about the flats, where questions around detail of the development, who was involved, and where Sikhs would worship temporarily were not fully answered.

Oxford City Council's east area planning committee had already given Mr Turna permission for the works to begin.

But there was confusion during the committee's meeting held in September about the identity of a man called Sukdev Singh Lalli who claimed to be the Gurdwara's committee president.

Then, Barton and Sandhills city councillor Mike Rowley initiated a formal 'call-in' process so the question about the man's identity and other issues could be sorted out.

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At the time, he said: "I was not confident the committee had enough time to consider all the evidence the Sikh community had."

Now, following a meeting of the council's planning review committee on Thursday (October 15), the work can start in earnest.

At the planning review committee, a similar set of arguments for and against the building were advanced as during the September meeting.

Local councillor Mr Rowley raised concerns about how parking outside the Gurdwara would be reduced from ten to five spaces.

The Gurdwara, the only one of its kind in Oxfordshire, needed the parking for elderly people and those coming in from outside Oxford, he said.

He added: "The Sikh religion like most religions has quite strict requirements regarding its places of worship. The one fundamental concern is that is must not be open to any area where alcohol or tobacco are consumed."

Mr Rowley said this was a concern because of the new flats next to the Gurdwara.

Oxford Mail:

The current Gurdwara. Picture: Ed Nix

Dilpreet Dhanoa, a barrister speaking on behalf of the Oxford Sikh community, added there were concerns about how removing the Gurdwara without an ironclad guarantee of a temporary temple would affect the human right of a place to worship.

Ms Dhanoa said: "Little to no thought has been given to where any temporary Gurdwara would be relocated."

She added there was an ongoing legal dispute about ownership of the Gurdwara.

However, council legal officer Sally Fleming said human rights law was not relevant because of the promise of a new place of worship for the Sikh community, and added the legal dispute should not affect a planning decision.

Councillors on the planning review committee asked Mr Lalli, who appeared at the meeting to speak in favour of the new temple, about his knowledge of how many people regularly used the Gurdwara.

Mr Lalli spoke via a translator and was announced as a former president of the Gurdwara's committee and said between 15 and 20 people used it regularly.

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Ms Dhanoa added that at the peaks of religious festivals, as many as 50 people used it.

Councillors were also concerned about whether there was anything they could make sure a temporary Gurdwara was provided while a new one was being built, with Chewe Mukonge even asking if this could be a condition of giving planning permission.

But they were told this would not be possible.

At a previous meeting, there was mention that rooms at Cheney School had been arranged as a temporary place of worship by applicant Mr Turna.

The committee unanimously granted approval for the Gurdwara to be knocked down and replaced.