Sikhs dismayed as temple plan refusedBy Jon Nurse
June 13, 2012
Controversial plans for a Sikh temple in Earley have been refused, frustrating a project 10 years in the making.
The proposed two-storey Gurdwara temple in Wokingham Road has been turned down by Wokingham Borough Council’s planners.
The council gave 13 objections to the plans, raising concerns over the size of the building and parking provision among other factors.
Parminder Singh, chairman of the group behind the development, said: “It’s a surprise and a disappointment because there has been a lot of consultation over the past years to address most of the questions raised.
“Then again, knowing the track record of Wokingham Borough Council, perhaps it’s not that surprising.
“It’s taken 10 years working with Reading and Wokingham councils to get to this stage.
“This decision doesn’t change the fact that the Sikh community has a need for a new facility in the area and we will now work through the concerns with our architect and planners. This is not something we are going to walk away from.”
A 190-signature strong petition was handed to the council in April and this was among more than 400 submissions from local people during the consultation.
This is the second highest number of comments sent to the council in three years, behind the proposed wind farm in Rushey Mead in 2010.
Phil Daniels, of the Earley Neighbours group, said: “We were very pleased when we heard the outcome. Common sense seems to have prevailed.
“I’m very happy with the reasons the council has given and we agree with all of them.
“This application really did worry everybody in the local community and we think it’s the wrong place for such a temple.”
Mr Singh said: “The reaction of people in the area doesn’t surprise me. That’s the nature of change.
“When anything comes along that’s new, people have the tendency to object.
“When we consulted local residents 60 to 80 came to a meeting and many raised their concerns, but we did work to accommodate these worries.”
The group of Sikhs behind the plan is preparing to appeal against the decision.
Mr Singh said: “At least half of the points are minor, though I do appreciate the size of the building does seem to be a major one. We are not much higher than the surrounding buildings.
“I don’t see all these reasons as being fair. One of the objections states the need for a bat survey. We weren’t ever asked for one and that’s despite many meetings with planning officers.
“They are not satisfied with parking spaces but there are 50 within the site, which is a lot more than you’d find in other places.”