London: A British city has granted approval to a meat plant to be constructed next to a gurdwara despite stiff opposition from members of the Sikh community.
The Bradford Area Planning Panel approved the construction of a wholesale meat plant by Pakeezah, a leading meat retailer of the northern British city of Bradford, at what was previously a car workshop and is close to the Guru Gobind Singh Gurdwara.
Even as protestors gathered at the venue of Bradford Area Planning Panel meeting Tuesday with more people holding placards outside Bradford City Hall, the plan to construct the meat plant was approved by the narrowest of margins, the Telegraph & Argus reported Wednesday.
According to the report, councillors Malcolm Sykes, Imran Khan and Alan Wainwright opposed the plan while councillors Shabir Hussain, Keith Dredge and Zameer Shah supported it.
It was finally with the casting vote of panel chairman Shabir Hussain that the plan was approved.
"The purity and sanctity of the gurdwara is going to be seriously undermined and that will have an effect on the right to worship of Sikhs,” barrister Kuljeet Singh, representing the Sikh community, was quoted as saying.
Councillor Imran Khan, who opposed the plan, said that the move was offensive to the Sikh community
"I’m a proud Muslim but I would find it very difficult to pray with someone chopping a pig up literally 20 metres away from me. To me, that would be offensive,” he said.
"I think what we need to realise is that for the Sikh community this is the same thing.”
But councillor Dredge, who supported the plan, offered a contrasting view.
"My beliefs dictate that people can believe what they want and worship what they want and I don’t wish to interfere with that in any way, shape or form,” he was quoted as saying.
"But I don’t feel that this would impact on the worship at the Sikh temple,” he added.
Meanwhile, Pakeezah director Tariq haq said that Tuesday`s decision “didn`t feel like a victory” for him.
"The decision doesn’t feel like a victory because people are upset. But we want to do everything in our power to make a plant that won’t affect the temple,” he said.
Earlier, in the panel meeting, he had said: “If we get permission today, I would like to go to the temple in six months and say ‘Has it affected you in any way whatsoever?’ And it won’t.”
Prior to Tuesday`s meeting, local Sikhs had voiced fierce opposition to the plan saying that meat odour would waft into the religious building.
"Many of our people are strict vegetarians and the meat processing unit being so near to the temple is disrespectful and insensitive,” Kuldip Bharj, secretary of the Board of Bradford Gurdwaras, had said.
"A butchery plant should be on an industrial estate rather than next to a place of worship and community centre where people will be exposed to the disgraceful smell and noise,” the gurdwara`s president Kuldeep Duley had been cited as writing in a letter to local planning officer Mohammed Yousef.
The Guru Gobind Singh Gurdwara in Bradford was opened in 1972 and is one of the largest gurdwaras in northern England.