Chabad triumph at mikveh victory

A long-running battle to open Cambridge's first mikveh has moved closer to resolution after the local Lubavitch centre won its appeal this week to build it.

Rabbi Reuven Leigh, director of Chabad House, said that he was "ecstatic" at the news, after more than two years of "stress and aggravation".

His hopes of converting a garage next to the Chabad centre into a mikveh were thwarted last autumn by Cambridge City Council's planning committee. The previous year the council refused his application for a certificate of lawfulness, which would have obviated the need for formal planning permission.

But Isobel McCretton, of the Planning Inspectorate, who granted his appeal after a visit to the site last month, concluded there was "not likely to be undue noise and disturbance to the adjoining neighbours as a result of the proposed use of the premises".

We are ecstatic after two years of stress

She noted that while the building was in a residential area, there were pubs and restaurants nearby. The mikveh would be used by an estimated six people every month.

Rabbi Leigh, who was due to meet his architect this week, said: "The plan will be to go ahead and build it as soon as possible. The mikveh will be a significant contribution and integral to married Jewish life in Cambridge."

Apart from council bureaucracy, he has also had to contend with a rival mikveh plan presented to the Cambridge community by David and Ofra Gilinsky, a couple who had sought to construct it on a property they owned in the city, after obtaining planning permission five years ago.

The Gilinskys had hoped to secure funds from a charity, the Cambridge Community Mikvah Charitable Trust (CCMCT), which has assets of more than £180,000 available to support the opening of a ritual bath in the city.

Two years ago, Mr Gilinksy, who is a trustee of the CCMCT, took his fellow-trustees to the London Beth Din, claiming they were being obstructive.

He and his wife moved last year to Croydon, south London, where he is now minister of the local Federation Synagogue.

Rabbi Leigh said he would now be applying to the CCMCT, although it would not be "the sole source" of funding.

Barry Landy, an executive member of the Cambridge Traditional Jewish Congregationm, said: "We are completely delighted and hope the building will be completed soon."

    Last updated: 4:02pm, June 17 2010