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Leamington Gurdwara “Party Hall” scandal – Encounters Collective

We are sharing this article from the Encounters Collective, a journalist collective who work in both print and broadcast media, that write and share public interest articles. This was originally published on August 28th. Sikh P.A share this now to highlight issues between the Sikh community and the Leamington Spa Gurdwara committee.

The Encounters Collective is learning of a new and troubling development in the long running saga of the Leamington Spa Gurdwara Sahib and its beleaguered Sangat.

This is the same committee that only two years ago had been accused of attempting to seek planning permission from the local council to convert a building belonging to the Gurdwara into a hall for weddings and parties, including a bar, that would be open seven day’s a week in the evenings as a social club, in complete contravention to Sikh ethics and code of conduct.

The social club plans had caused a furore. The committee claimed the reports as false and finally (after a demonstration outside the Gurdwara) conceded the error, suggesting their use of the word ‘bar’ was wrong in terminology and that their intentions were for a non-alcohol serving bar.

The general secretary of the Gurdwara at that time was Shalbinder Malle, who had diffused a volatile situation having told Sikh media channels that he would never and could never involve the Gurdwara in any controversy where alcohol and meat could be served.

Yet, Shalbinder Malle is now the owner of a building that stands adjacent to the Gurdwara Sahib, separated only by railings. We have learned that, when the controversy of the building owned by the Gurdwara Sahib and the disastrous ‘bar’ application had come to a head, Mr Malle had been accused of buying the building that is now under planning consideration to use as a wedding party venue for private profit.

The planning application before the local council stated the owner, read Mr Malle, intends to open a venue to accommodate parties and weddings among other activities. Not only that, Mr Malle contends that the Gurdwara Sahib is happy to share their scarce parking resources with the proposed party hall and conference centre.

This begs the logical question, why would a Gurdwara with already limited parking capacity be willing to accommodate vehicles of people who are not intending to use the facilities provided at the Gurdwara for their intended purpose? Is this to be a move by the current committee and a former general secretary to have their long aspired to ‘party hall’ one way or another?

Has Shalbinder Malle misrepresented his dealings with the Sikh community when addressing their concerns and his intentions? He is welcome to clarify the details publicly and set the record straight.

The incredulous Malle had begun civil proceedings for defamation against several members of the Leamington Sikh community, accusing them of slight of character for suggesting his intentions of buying the building were related to a soon to be proposed wedding venue. That case is likely to be heard later this year or early next.

Quite how he intends to show that the suspicion and allegation of him buying a building to turn into a wedding party hall, whilst he was general secretary of the Gurdwara, as defamatory to his reputation whilst in the middle of a process applying for planning permission to do just that, is anyone’s guess.

Malle has been accused by many people of bullying those that have opposed him in the past and of using his considerable wealth to threaten legal and civil consequences for those that oppose him, yet the Gurdwara appears to be a silent partner in this ‘association’ that Malle’s planning application talks about.

Why has the Gurdwara not objected to the use of its car park by an entity not related to the Gurdwara or its function?

The letter (pictured above) dated 13th November 2015 which forms part of this proposal states as the subject, “GURDWARA SAHIB PROPOSED WEDDING VENUE”. This begs the question, is this a private venture or an official Gurdwara proposal? Either Mr Malle, the Gurdwara committee, or both need to clarify this point at the earliest opportunity.

Are they prepared to share their car park with a venue serving alcohol and meat or is the committee actively participating in this proposal? Why has the Leamington Spa Gurdwara Sahib sangat (congregation) not been informed of these plans? Will the Gurdwara committee behave like it’s predecessors and claim ignorance of the plans or details until confronted by the documents in black and white as was the case two years ago?

Will they serve the interests of the community and the constitution of the Gurdwara?

Surely anything less would be a complete dereliction of duty?

The planned venue has only 27 parking spaces of its own and would therefore be RELIANT on the already limited parking spaces of the Gurdwara.

Can anyone imagine our Sikh elders having to navigate through groups of inebriated youths and young men smoking cigarettes to reach their cars, whilst attempting to leave their hard earned and funded place of worship?

It has been suggested to us by members of the community, that those who have attempted to allow meat and alcohol at Sikh functions in Leamington Spa Gurdwara Sahib property are adamant that they be allowed to do so, be it at the old Sikh community centre, the failed 2014 proposal for a Sikh leisure and commuity centre or now by using a privately owned building by ‘association’

Will the Gurdwara committee oppose this anti Sikh proposition and an ‘association’ to a plan of which the ethics are far removed from those of a Sikh Gurdwara?

Let’s see.

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This is an excerpt from the objections raised by a town planning firm to the proposal by a private individual to create a wedding hall relying heavily on sharing the Gurdwara Sahib at Leamington’s car parking facilities:

“In total the proposal makes provision for 27 car parking spaces, within the basement of the proposed building. This is considered to be inadequate for a proposed venue, which can accommodate 600 people.
“It is pertinent to highlight that the Applicant cannot rely on parking provision for other surrounding uses (i.e. the Sikh Temple and the Community Centre). This is mainly because they are separate buildings with separate uses, with their own planning restrictions and car parking allocations and more importantly, they fall outside the Applicant’s red line boundary (please refer to appeal case APP/B5480/W/16/3143101 – para 16).
“Furthermore, the recently approved Community Centre, has not yet been implemented, therefore, very little weight can be given to its availability for car parking.”

Should anyone like to further view the plans, supporting documents, objections (of which there are many!!) or make their own objections or representations, this is the planning portal: http://planningdocuments.warwickdc.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=documents&keyVal=_WARWI_DCAPR_75821

 

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