A Hindu temple, whose priests were thrown out on to the street last year, has unveiled plans to move into a warehouse on an industrial estate.
The Sivayogam temple, attended by Tamil Hindus across south-west London, was evicted from its former home of 17 years in Hebdon Road, Tooting, in May 2012 after a protracted legal dispute.
Since then the temple has been based under a tarpaulin in Croydon, but the charity wants to convert a £1.8m former shop fittings warehouse in the Morden Road factory estate into a 359 capacity temple.
But residents have complained the site is unsuitable for a religious centre and it is understood Merton Council are set to reject the plans.
The Lyon Road site in south Wimbledon would include a prayer hall, library, nursery, youth club, day centre, and living quarters for priests.
Temple founder, 74-year-old Nagendram Seevaratnam, said: “There will only be minor changes to the building. It will be open to everyone because it will be a community hub for all faiths.
“We hope to open on May 13 with a big celebration.”
Nearby residents in Merton Abbey Mills were concerned the temple would create noise during the evenings and see hundreds of visitors enter each day via the footbridge so they do not have to walk through an industrial estate.
Sally Lines, who lives in Bennett’s Courtyard, said: “If they are planning three ceremonies a day, and up to 1,000 visitors a day, then this completely changes the nature of the business park.
“A business park is not a place for a cultural centre with children and all, so they want to use our little private bridge and cut a swathe through the wildlife corridor that runs alongside the river.”
Merton Councillor Richard Hilton, who also lives nearby, said: "This planning application is totally inappropriate for a designated industrial estate.
"It puts local jobs at risk and should have been rejected before it got as far as the Planning Committee stage.
"Local residents' views are being trampled on in favour of intense lobbying from those outside the borough, while the local Labour councillors in Colliers Wood do nothing."
The warehouse has been empty since 2011 after it was vacated by Octanorm following a management buyout and is keen to be sold by the building’s owner, John Armitage.
Mr Armitage said: “There are people who are saying there are going to be 8,000 visitors, but its absolute nonsense. It is likely to be 400 on a big day for only a couple of days a year.
“It is open to all which is very appealing and impressive.”
The temple, which would be open seven-days-a-week from 8am to 9.30pm, is supported by Mitcham and Morden MP Siobhain McDonagh and Tooting MP Sadiq Khan as well as neighbouring businesses who are keen to see the vacant site used.
Mr Khan said: “I have known the temple, and its worshippers, for a number of years and have always found them to be wonderful ambassadors for both their faith and the wider Tooting community.
He added: “Knowing that a potential site is less than two miles from their current location would also help minimise the impact on developers.”
Merton Council’s planning committee, which is likely to consider the plan next month, would need to approve the site being reclassified from industrial to community use.