Critics speak out over St John's Wood eruv

St John's Wood residents have voiced opposition to a planned eruv and its potential consequences for local diversity at a church meeting organised by a religious leaders' group.

The North Westminster Eruv committee plans to submit an application to Westminster Council at the end of the summer for the erection of 38 poles extending to Boundary Road in the north, Avenue Road in the east, Regent's Canal in the south and Shirland Road in the west.

The proposed eruv would allow more than 1,000 strictly Orthodox residents within the pole and wire boundary to do things that are otherwise forbidden on Shabbat, such as pushing a buggy or wheelchair or carrying prayer books.

The St John's Wood and Spanish and Portuguese synagogues will both be within the intended parameters, as well as the Anshei Shalom and Saatchi communities.

St John's Wood minister Dayan Ivan Binstock took up the invitation to address interested parties at the St John's Wood Church meeting, titled Poles apart? Religious Practice and Public Space.

Dayan Binstock said it had been an opportunity "to have something outside the formal planning process".

Many issues had been raised by the 70-plus attendance. "Some expressed anxiety and others showed concern about changing the nature of the area. There were a couple of people there who had strong views but that will always be the case."

Church minister Reverend Dr Anders Bergquist said: "We spoke about how far religious practice is allowed to impinge on public space.

"People were able to express quite strongly-held views. Within the community, there are people who are not happy about the eruv, including people within the Jewish community.

"Some people felt that if we do have an eruv, that may encourage people for whom it is important to move to the area." In that event, "an unintended consequence" would be the impact on the diversity of the area.

"It's not about not wanting Jews moving here but about saving the diversity of the neighbourhood."

    Last updated: 12:49pm, June 24 2010