Residents opposed to South Hampstead Synagogue demolition receive English Heritage blow
15:00 13 June 2014
Residents opposing the demolition of South Hampstead Synagogue have criticised English Heritage after the conservation body failed to support their bid to have the building listed.
Attempts to see the synagogue, in Eton Villas, recognised as a building of “national special architectural or historic interest” were formed in a bid to block a planning application which would see it bulldozed and replaced by a larger, four-storey centre.
Residents – including actor Sir Derek Jacobi and Baroness Helena Kennedy QC – have publicly complained that the proposals for the new synagogue are “out of keeping with the local area” and would have a negative impact on parking, pollution and congestion.
But their attempts to stave off a major redevelopment have been dealt a hammer blow after officers at English Heritage ruled that the 1962 building – designed by the architectural practice Lyons Israel Ellis – is “not of sufficient interest” to merit listing.
Advising the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to reject the listing application, which it duly did on Friday, English Heritage said: “Though not without interest as a post-war synagogue by a noted architectural practice, the building lacks the quality of interest in its design, detailing and planning, to mark it out amongst its contemporaries as being of national special interest.
“Its interior planning is typical, and it lacks features such as the decorative stained glass found in others of this period.”
Plans to erect a replacement synagogue were submitted in December. Leaders at the South Hampstead Synagogue say the current building “fails to provide for the needs of the community”.
Designs for the new synagogue are by architects Allies and Morrison, the team behind Croydon’s forthcoming £1billion Westfield shopping complex, and officials hope to see the building replaced by a four-storey centre with an extended basement and added space for classrooms and areas for community celebrations.
While many synagogue users have backed the plans, the controversial development in a conservation area has prompted a backlash from hundreds of residents.
The Belsize residents who submitted the listing application said in a joint statement: “We believe English Heritage should be held to account as the independent custodian of our neighbourhood. Obviously we are disappointed with the decision but we intend to submit an appeal.”
Shlomo Levin, senior rabbi at the synagogue, said: “The plans address our urgent needs as a community – in particular those at the two ends of the age spectrum and do so in a way which I believe is sensitive to the concerns of the local community.”
No date has yet been set for the planning application to be heard at a Camden planning committee.