Old Sikh temple in Kent to be turned into flats

A derelict building, which once served as a place of worship for the Sikh community in Kent and was saved from demolition in 2020, will be turned into residential apartments.

The Gurdwara in Clarence Place, Gravesend, was used as a place of worship in the early 1960s until 2008, when the community moved to new premises in Saddington Street.

The old building, vacant since 2010, was saved from demolition in 2020 when councillors voted against plans to flatten it and build 19 flats.

The new application submitted to Gravesham council in July outlined adjusted plans to instead convert the temple into flats as opposed to demolishing it.

“We are pleased to announce that GBC (Green Building Council) has approved the Gurdwara’s application for conversion of the existing building. This has been a long process, with applications and appeals being submitted over the last 10 years,” a spokesman from the Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara management team told Kent Online.

The Gurdwara will be converted into 14 residential apartments, a library, cycle and bin storage facilities.

The building was originally built as the Milton Congregational Church and lecture hall in 1873 before becoming a place of worship for Sikhs in 1968.

It was also a target of vandalism in 2016 when a group of youngsters were seen throwing objects, breaking glass and causing damage to the shrine.

According to the 2011 census, there were 420,196 Sikhs in the UK with some of the largest communities in London, Gravesend, Birmingham, Bedford, Coventry, Wolverhampton, Bradford, Leeds, Derby and Nottingham.

More than 15,000 Sikhs are believed to be living in Gravesend and the surrounding suburbs, making up more than 15% of the total population of Gravesham, which now includes Gravesend.

The arrival of Sikhs in Kent can be traced back to the 1950s when a shortage of cheap labour fuelled demand for workers from abroad.

A number of Sikhs from Punjab came to post-war Britain and took up work in the riverside town’s paper mill industry and later major construction projects such as the Dartford Tunnel, Kent Online reported.

Most Sikh lodgings were in Pier Road, which was affectionately dubbed “Sikh Street”, according to a 2002 Channel 4 documentary on the first Sikhs to arrive in Kent.

Up to the late 1960’s, Sikhs gathered in a house in Edwin Street for religious services, and then moved to the Gurdwara in Clarence Place.

The new Sikh temple in Saddington Street claims to be one of the biggest Gurdwaras in Europe.

It was opened in November 2010 and constructed at a cost of 18 million pounds, which was funded entirely by the local community.

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