For Gurdarshan Singh Sangha, decades of searching for a suitable home for Ayr’s Sikh community looked like it could be at an end when the Darlington Church was put on the market in 2019.

For years the Sikh community has had to travel to Glasgow to attend cultural events, funerals and other events central to their faith.

So, they viewed the Darlington Church as an opportunity to finally find their home, where they could educate, pray and help their own community, the wider Scottish Sikh community and, they say, everyone in South Ayrshire.

South Ayrshire Council even admitted that the £35,000 the Ayrshire Sikh Association offered to buy the historic building for, was above the market rate.

However, they opted to lease the church to Iris Arts based on a business plan that would allow them to lease for two years and then buy the property outright for just £1.

One of the arguments raised against the Sikh Association bid was a lack of detail about funds and investment into the church.

But Ayr businessman Mr Sangha says that his group was never given any feedback about their bid, or asked to clarify any of the pertinent information, claiming that most of the senior members of the community were successful businessmen and could count on support from Sikhs across the country.

The church sale will be back before the council’s Leadership Panel on November 30, following a late withdrawal of a paper which reported that the two year lease had been allowed to continue beyond its end.

It was also revealed that the Iris Arts bid had been supported by a draft business plan, although the group insists that their plan remains viable.

The council has also refused to comment on whether controversial legal advice that they do not require court approval for the sale or the fact that a draft business plan was used would be considered at the meeting.

South Ayrshire’s Sikh community will submit a petition outlining its anger at the council’s continued drive to sell the Darlington Church for just £1 having offered to buy it for £35,000 themselves.

Mr Sangha said that the his community would have no problems providing assurance around finances had they been asked and called upon his community’s bid to be considered once again.

He also insisted that the centre would be a place open to all and would allow them to help people by providing food, accommodation and other voluntary and charitable work.

In a covering letter to the petition, Mr Sangha, said: “I write to say how very angry we are in the recent decision of your council to prefer an extension of the current lease of Darlington Church with an offer to sell the Church for £1 to the company that leases it just now within the next year.

“We in our community do not understand this when we had offered to buy the church for £35,000, which would have been paid to your council within 28 days of the agreement to sell.”

He said that a cultural centre like the Darlington Church would change the lives of the local Sikh community, particularly when it came to passing on the traditions, skills and education to younger generations, as well as provide a place of community that has been absent for funerals and other important events.

He added: “It would allow us to teach our children music and culture, allow community, many of whom have to travel to Glasgow along with fellow Sikhs from Kilmarnock etc, to share cultural events to use the church to attract them to Ayr.”