Coast shul wants sea change

By Corinne Rein, August 5, 2010

Bournemouth Hebrew Congregation could be on the move after receiving an offer for its Wootton Gardens premises in the town centre.

After the Shabbat service, relocation committee chair Geoffrey Feld told members that "a substantial offer had been received which we are looking upon most favourably".

He could not reveal the prospective buyer, or the price being offered. However, if the sale went ahead, a clause allowing two or three years for the shul to find a replacement site would be included in the contract.

Mr Feld added that the trustees would have to obtain Charity Commission approval for the sale. And as agreed at a special general meeting two years ago, members will be asked to authorise the sale. Should matters proceed as hoped, a meeting will be called after the High Holy-Days.

As for a replacement site, "the search is continuing and if a suitable location is identified we will bring it to your attention".

In April, synagogue leaders welcomed a decision by then Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw to reject a request by English Heritage to list the Edwardian shul building. Listed status would have made the sale more difficult.

Consecrated in 1911, the synagogue has been expanded down the years to accommodate 800 people. It has a small social hall, a mikveh and a multi-storey extension featuring a banqueting hall, kitchen, six classrooms and two flats.

Many of the 720 members feel the complex is now too big for their needs and expensive to maintain. They also consider its location in the heart of Bournemouth's nightlife area as undesirable.

Synagogue president Brian Bradley said: "We are all sorry to leave our beautiful shul but it makes practical sense for the future of our community to relocate to Bournemouth's East Cliff."

Last updated: 11:04am, August 5 2010