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Gurdwara planning row set to continue

PUBLISHED: 12:09 08 February 2019 | UPDATED: 10:20 13 February 2019

Inside is a mess

Inside is a mess

Archant

A 10-year fight to decide the future of the old Gurdwara site in Gravesend has finally been settled - it's being knocked down for new flats.

Is this the end?Is this the end?

A 10-year fight to decide the future of the old Gurdwara site in Gravesend has finally been settled – it’s being knocked down for new flats.

A planning application before Gravesham Council has been passed by its regulatory board to allow demolition and the building of apartments on the site.

This old Gurdwara was left behind when the new one was built.

Spokesman for the management committee, Jagdev Virdee told us: “The old building still belongs to Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara, which moved to new premises in 2010.

Could renovation have saved it?Could renovation have saved it?

“The proposal also comes from the Gurdwara, which is a registered charity.”

In a statement, the Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara management committee’s president, Ajaib Singh Cheema, confirmed: “The regulatory board agreed to grant planning permission for its demolition and replacement with a high quality housing scheme of 19 apartments.

“It has taken 10 years to reach this point and we now appeal to all sections of the community to accept and respect the democratic decision of the council.

“In the last few months we have taken careful note of the campaign by some local residents to oppose the plans. We have chosen not to respond because we value and respect our democratic values and freedom of speech.

Is this the end?Is this the end?

“We also acknowledge the role of elected councillors to represent the views and thoughts of their constituents.

“In our view this has been undertaken effectively over a period of 10 years. We now appeal to all sections of the community to accept and respect the democratic decision taken by Gravesham Council and to move on.

“In the next two years we hope to deliver a quality housing development of which local people can be proud and which helps to provide much needed housing for the people of Gravesham.

“It will be in keeping with the character and appearance of the local Conservation Area. It will also include dedicated parking for the apartments.

“We can reassure our rich and diverse communities that the proposed development will give priority to those who live in Gravesham and need housing.”

Not everyone is happy.

Neege Allen Navarria from campaign group Gravesend Futures was worried about the loss of a heritage building.

He said: “It was originally built as a church in the 19th Century it has protected status as part of the Windmill Hill Conservation Area.

“Having been abandoned to disrepair by the owners for the last 10 years, there is now pressure to redevelop - demolition and redevelopment will bring a much higher land value than from sale for refurbishment.

“There are companies keen to purchase and refurbish though, and, under planning law, priority should be given to this solution.

“A local business is looking to use it as their offices and to include a community café and a museum dedicated to famed local Historian Tony Larkin’s collection.”

And SAVE Britain’s Heritage wrote to the council saying it “takes the view that substantial harm will be caused to the Conservation Area,

in which the temple is identified as a ‘positive building’, a ‘focal building’, and a ‘building of local interest’, and its demolition is not therefore consistent with the National Planning Policy Framework.”

Mr Allen Navarria said Gravesham now has an ever shorter list of heritage buildings remaining because of what he calls “attack by low-denominator re-development”.

He said: “I have twice submitted to GBC feasibility studies demonstrating re-use of the ex-Gurdwara building.”

Campaign group, Gravesend Futures said: “This is another piece of heritage” and points out the two offers to renovate the existing building.

They said: “There should no longer be any case for demolition.”

In its decision notice, Gravesham’s Regulatory Board (Planning) wrote that they grant planning permission subject to “further consideration of late representations received prior to the resolution of the Regulatory Board (Planning) and whether those representations raise any new issues with legal advice to be sought where appropriate.”

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