Residents protest Jewish school move

By Jonathan Kalmus, June 10, 2010

Angry residents made plain their opposition to Bury and Whitefield Jewish Primary School's relocation plans at an acrimonious public meeting on Monday.

Bury and Whitefield called the meeting in partnership with a local rugby club to discuss the proposal to develop nine acres of green belt land owned by Whitefield Golf Club, which is in financial difficulty because of falling membership. The plans incorporate a new school and an all-weather rugby pitch.

The meeting was intended to gauge local opinion before the submission of a planning application, residents having opposed a previous plan for a different site which did not receive planning consent.

Golf club trustee Irvine Caplan defended the use of green belt land, saying the primary school would be built on "scrubland which is used for fly-tipping".

But the vast majority of 150 people who attended were unimpressed, attacking the plans for the impact on wildlife and claiming that traffic and rubbish levels would be unbearable.

A faith school would leave us open to terrorism

Judy Anderson, who circulated flyers calling for residents to protest against the plans, told the meeting chair to "sit down" as she outlined reasons why the school could manage on its current site in Unsworth, north of Whitefield.

Jewish resident Sandra Lewis argued: "I feel building a faith school would leave us open to acts of terrorism."

However, non-Jew John Lawrence took issue with the protesters. "There's a lot of 'not in my back yard' going on here," he observed, calling for both sides to listen to each other in a "democratic fashion."

Harvey Jacobson, who has been negotiating on behalf of the school, was disappointed by the tone of the meeting. "We came here to compromise."

Governors' chair Rabbi Avrohom Jaffe said afterwards that it had been "upsetting that residents had not come prepared to listen to what we had to say. We wanted a meaningful discussion to present our plans."

The aim was to relocate to a Jewish catchment area to boost the pupil roll. The school has 167 pupils but could accommodate 210.

Last updated: 1:39pm, June 10 2010