Camden planners to decide on controversial Eruv for West Hampstead and Swiss Cottage
- Credit: Archant
Plans to build an Orthodox Jewish boundary in parts of West Hampstead and Swiss Cottage which split residents and led to accusations of religious encroachment will be considered by planners next week following a consultation period of more than a year.
The proposals for the boundary of poles and wires – known as an Eruv – were first submitted to Camden Council in June 2014, marking out an area in NW3 and NW6 within which Jews can carry out activities deemed as work and banned during the Sabbath.
This includes pushing a trolley or pram, carrying shopping or keys, and pushing a wheelchair.
To mark out the area, the Brondesbury Eruv would see pairs of poles, each up to 5.5m high, with clear fishing wire running between them at 14 locations across West Hampstead and Swiss Cottage, Kilburn and Fortune Green in Camden and one in Brent.
It runs from Kilburn High Road and Minster Road across to Canfield Gardens, in South Hampstead, and St John’s Court, in Finchley Road.
Although it utilises existing walls and fences, there remain a number of locations where no natural boundary exists, principally across roads and footpaths where poles will be installed.
Brondesbury Park Synagogue, who made the application, has said the zone is needed to accommodate the needs of its “growing community”.
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It said: “The erection of an eruv not only relaxes an ancient religiously-held prohibition for the benefit of all observant Jewish residents but, more significantly, it allows those who are disabled, as well as those who are carers of disabled adults or pre-ambulant children, to leave the confines of their homes on Friday evenings and Saturdays.”
The council has since received a total of 73 written representations with 40 objecting and 27 in support.
Those objecting include the London Borugh of Westminster who are opposed to the street clutter and the Combined Residents Associations of West Hampstead (CRASH), Fordwych Residents Association, West Hampstead Local Community Group and St John’s Wood Society with concerns ranging from its size, the amount of street clutter, and need to take in the views of all the community rather than just a minority group.
While some objections argued that the poles would leave streets looking “cluttered” and would “disfigure attractive neighbourhoods”, others said the plans represented a wider threat of religion “encroaching on public spaces” and more extremely that the clear
association with one religious group could make the area within the Eruv a target for extremist and terrorist activity.
One resident wrote: “I do not feel it is appropriate to enforce these on the public just for religious reasons and especially in open spaces. If these go ahead, it opens the floodgates for anybody to erect whatever they like.”
Other residents expressed concerns that the use of nylon fishing wire would pose a threat to bird life.
But one Jewish father-of-three, who has a child with special needs, wrote: “Effectively we are housebound on Saturdays due to the lack of an Eruv. Having lived temporarily in Golders Green [where an Eruv already exists] we noticed a marked improvement in the quality of life and family time as we were not effectively confined to our home every Saturday.
“Acceptance of the application will further enrich the cultural diversity of Camden and make our lives so much easier.”
Others in support pointed out that it would be a great benefit to the Jewish community with no real adverse effect on the rest of the borough as the poles are discreet and won’t create any additional obstacles.
It would also enable people to attend synagogue, social functions and leisure activities and enable disabled people in wheelchairs to leave their homes on the Sabbath.
Among supporters is Fortune Green councillor Lorna Russell who said it would significantly benefit lives of Orthodox Jews in the borough and was “virtually invisible”
In a report to the Development Control Committee officers have recommended the Eruv, with a few minor location amendments, gets the go ahead.
The report states: “In conclusion the proposed development would not impact on the amenity enjoyed by neighbouring residents.
All poles have been sited in manner to minimise the impact on the surrounding street scene and would not cause harm to conservation areas, nor would the development impact on the highway network.”
They added: “There is no evidence to suggest that Eruvs result in a rise in racial attacks or anti-Semitic behaviour. There is also no evidence to suggest that they would alter the balance of the community by attracting or alienating a particular racial or religious group.”
Members of the Development Control Commitee will consider the plans on September 24.