Cemetery plan battle is won

By Robyn Rosen, August 19, 2010

Four synagogue groups have won an eight-year battle to extend a Jewish cemetery in Barnet.

An independent inspector has supported an appeal against Barnet Council's rejection of expansion plans for Edgwarebury Lane cemetery last October - a decision taken against the recommendation of its officer. Barnet will also have to meet the costs of the appeal.

The site is shared by Belsize Square Synagogue, Liberal Judaism, West London Synagogue and the Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation. Their plans were to purchase two more fields, plus the creation of 26 additional parking spaces. Another element was an "access point" to cross from the back of the existing cemetery over a bridle path into the new fields.

Opponents of the scheme claimed it was visually detrimental, did not preserve Green Belt land and would ruin the homes of bats and rare falcons.

Supporters of the extension told a four-day Planning Inspectorate hearing at Hendon Town Hall in June that some sections of the cemetery would be full in under five years.

Keith Conway, who has led the campaign since 2002, said he hoped the extension would be in use by January.

"It's wonderful to see my long-term strategy realised," he said. "It's extremely important for the security of ours and other communities." He added that the costs awarded ran into "tens of thousands. It's a shame because the whole appeal wouldn't have been necessary if the councillors had followed the officer's recommendation."

Liberal Judaism chief executive Rabbi Danny Rich said the decision would mean "that for the next two generations, our members can feel secure knowing that they can have an appropriate burial in an appropriate place."

At Belsize Square, chairman Paul Burger hailed the decision as "a victory for common sense, enabling us to provide for the needs of our members and those belonging to the communities who share the cemetery with us".

For the objectors, Oliver Natelson of the London Wildlife Trust's Barnet group claimed the appeal had been "totally unnecessary" as most of the concerns had been addressed at that point. "Our advice was heeded," he said.

Last updated: 12:27pm, August 19 2010