Crawley Hindu community hopes demolishing former place of worship will reduce £2 million debt

DEBTS:  The building of the temple at The Apple Tree Centre put the group in debt

DEBTS: The building of the temple at The Apple Tree Centre put the group in debt

A Hindu group is hoping to wipe £500,000 off its debts after being given permission to convert a former place of worship.

Crawley Borough Council’s development control committee has approved an application from the Crawley Gurjar Hindu Union (GHU) to demolish a warehouse in Spencers Road, West Green.

The group has used the site as a temporary place of worship in the past and plans to knock it down and build ten flats in its place.

Crawley GHU hopes profits from the sale of the land or building of properties on it will significantly reduce its £1.8 million debt – accrued through building the Apple Tree Centre, in Ifield.

Bharat Lukka, a GHU governor, said: “The Apple Tree Centre temple cost £4 million [to build] and we have already managed to pay off £2.2 million.

“However, this still leaves a £1.8 million financial burden on our community. It is a large sum to have hanging over us.

“It costs £18,000 a month just to run The Apple Tree Centre so we want to pay off this lump sum as soon as possible.

“Now the council has given us planning permission our board of governors will decide whether we want to either sell the land to a developer or build the flats ourselves and then sell them for profit.

“Either way we are hopeful that disposing of the site will raise us £500,000. This is a significant amount of money that will help us for years to come.

“The warehouse is an eyesore, it does not add anything to the area as it is.

“This is a residential area very close the town centre and the flats will be in keeping with the character of the area.”

The Apple Tree Centre – which houses the Sanatan Mandir, Ifield Temple – opened in May 2010 with thousands of people attending a three-day ceremony.

The temple has a main hall of worship and offers space for conferences and meetings.

The housing proposal in Spencers Road includes building five one-bedroom and five two-bedroom flats built in a single block with 15 parking spaces.

No gardens are planned for the block of flats, but the site is located just 55 metres from Goffs Park.

Objections to the plans were received from households in Spencers Road and Alpha Road and a petition was signed by 15 people.

The issues raised include the development causing parking problems in the area and a loss of privacy to other properties.

Concerns were also expressed that extra traffic in the Horsham Road and Spencers Road area could make the level crossing junction dangerous.

Despite the objections the council’s planning officers recommended the application should be accepted due to the town’s need for housing.

Committee members voted eight to six in favour of the application.