April 24, 2011
It all started a few weeks ago when Bury Metropolitan Borough Council (one of the ten boroughs that make up Greater Manchester) decided not to raise the Israeli Flag on Israel Independence Day.
I could see their point as if they acceded to this then they would spend 140 or so days each year raising flags because some former citizen from wherever had requested that they recognise their countries big day and with the world in current turmoil Bury could be opening a can of worms.
However, they do raise the Pakistani flag on Pakistan’s Independence Day, but they reasoned, there are thousands of former Pakistanis living in Bury but only a handful of Israelis. Remember we are British Jews - Not Israelis. Pressure was brought to bear and the council gave in to an argument put forward by a former councillor and Mayor who is now a Synagogue President.
So we are all being welcomed to a flag raising ceremony on 10th May still with the taste of bitter herbs fresh in our mouths.
We now have another issue. It would appear that Texaco and a communications company want to erect a mast behind a petrol station in Prestwich (part of Bury) where many Jews reside.
The planning committee are discussing this issue on the second Seder night and I have been asked to request that this item be deferred as some objectors to the consent are prevented from exercising their democratic right to object in person on this religious holiday.
Below I have printed my request to all members of the planning committee and the prompt reply from the council.
My argument was printed in the local press and I consider that in this case the council could have heard the objections even if they then choose to rule for the consent which I understand was a forgone conclusion.
I respect the fact that the planning committee’s diary is arranged nine months in advance and they obviously don’t know what issues affecting the Jewish community may crop up on a festival but, and that these people were denied a voice, however frail, is undemocratic.
Someone with ‘chremsels’ (a Passover pancake) for brains did call me to say that he felt that the council were ‘anti semitic’ which is ridiculous and I refute this insulting remark as we have a wonderful long and mutually respected relationship with Bury Council, its Mayor, its officers, councillors and members of Parliament built of over many years.
18th April 2011
I write as Vice President of the Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester and Regions, the elected umbrella organisation for all Jewish people within the Greater Manchester district.
We have been contacted by concerned Jewish people about the planning application to erect a communications mast behind the Texaco Petrol Station on Bury Old Road, Prestwich and we understand that the committee is meeting on the 19th April 2011 to consider this application.
Tonight is the beginning of the Jewish Passover holiday which is celebrated for a period of seven days. The first two nights, tonight and tomorrow, are pivotal to all Jews who will commemorate leaving their enslaved lives in Egypt and beginning their journey to the land of Israel. It is a time for family cohesion and reflection.
The meeting being held on this evening will deny any orthodox local Jewish people their rights to attend your meeting and raise any concerns that they may have and I am writing on their behalf to request that this item be deferred to another date.
I sincerely hope that you will accommodate these concerned people and apologise for any inconvenience caused.
Thanking you in anticipation.
Bury Councils Tom Mitchell promptly responded:
Councillor Cohen has copied me in on your email and asked that I respond.
I should first start by explaining that the application for the communications mast is actually a notification that the works are to be carried out as permitted development. The Planning system does provide the Local Planning Authority with 56 days to respond and in the alternative consent is deemed to have been granted. The Planning Committee on the 19th is therefore the only possible date and if the matter were deferred as you suggest then the application will in effect by approved on the 5th May (56 days after its submission).
I would also advise that we have notified 181 neighbouring properties and site notices were posted on the 11th March. In response we received 3 letters of objection. We have also been in touch with one objector, Dr Stein and invited him to send any further representations which could be read out in full to the Committee. I would therefore suggest that to date the substance of the application has not been subject to a significant level of concern.