Brondesbury submits plans for latest eruv
Radlett project faces residents' oppositition
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Brondesbury Park Synagogue has submitted planning applications to Camden and Brent councils for an eruv covering the greater part of the Brondesbury, Queens Park, Willesden and Kilburn area with marginal extension into Cricklewood and West Hampstead.
The eruv will permit greater freedom of Shabbat movement for observant Jews, particularly young mothers pushing prams, as well as the elderly or disabled. The religious boundary is said to be essential for the growth of the community and to meet the needs of the growing number of young modern Orthodox families attracted to the neighbourhood by the successful shul and competitive property prices.
Brondesbury now has 350 member families and up to 300 under-18s and minister Rabbi Baruch Levin maintained: "An eruv is the only thing missing. If we had one, that would tick all the boxes."
Although the area covered by the proposed eruv extends beyond the homes of members, the intention in drawing the outline was to maximise the use of natural boundaries, such as fences, roads and railway lines, to minimise the number of poles and wire required to bridge any gaps. The applications specify a total of 26 pairs of poles split between the two local authorities - quite a small number, said Rabbi Levin, when compared to existing eruvs which do not benefit as much from natural boundaries.
While the applications have attracted some local opposition, support has outnumbered unfavourable comments both in Camden and Brent. Rabbi Levin stressed that the poles would be virtually unnoticeable once constructed and would not adversely impact on the local environment. He added that the eruv was "not about creating a Jewish exclusion zone. It will also allow for greater communal integration, a key component in the mix for a young and vibrant community."
A decision on the applications is not expected until next month at the earliest.
In Bushey, meanwhile, a local residents group is making a last-ditch attempt to halt an eruv project which has passed its planning hurdles.
However, before construction work can begin, Hertfordshire County Council is required to grant a licence to permit part of the proposed boundary to be placed over the highway. Now the Bushey Residents Group has organised a petition asking the council not to grant the licence, on the basis that "the residents of Bushey have not been properly and democratically consulted". More than 300 have signed a petition which suggests that the eruv will cause disruption and damage to a valued conservation area.
Those who sign, it says, will "prevent governmental discrimination in favour of a minority religion against the wishes of the majority community". The petition's organisers have been told by the county council's chief executive officer, David Roberts, that issues relating to eruv planning matters should be referred to the borough council.
United Synagogue director of eruvim Rabbi Jeremy Conway said that where there was local opposition to eruv projects, protests tended to subside "when campaigners realise just how little impact it has on anyone except those who wish to take advantage of it. An eruv is of huge benefit to the Jewish community and is detrimental to no one. There are now seven active eruvim in the UK, five in London and two in Manchester. In all these areas, once the eruv was put up and people saw how minimal and unobtrusive it actually was, all fears and criticism quickly died away."