Hackney family can keep succah

By Marcus Dysch, September 28, 2012

A strictly Orthodox family have won a year-long planning dispute over the erection of a succah on the balcony of their flat.

Yehuda and Rachel Benouaich built the succah when they moved in last year but were forced to hire architects and solicitors after Hackney Council threatened legal action over their failure to secure planning permission.

Mrs Benouaich claimed that she had been told by a council officer that they should destroy the structure as there was "no chance" of them obtaining retrospective permission.

Around another 20 Jewish families, living in flats at the complex in Lordship Road, Stamford Hill, build succahs on their balconies each year, but are forced to remove and then rebuild them due to the planning restraints.

Mrs Benouaich said: "Last Succot was fine and then a few months later we received a notice saying we had to take the succah down. We wanted to apply for permission but we were told that we had no chance and it was a waste of time. But we went ahead because there was no way we would take it down."

Hackney Council eventually acknowledged that Mr Benouaich, a sales rep for the Kedem kosher wine company, had built the "aluminium-framed, semi-transparent polycarbonate enclosure" in a way that did not extend beyond the balcony at the three-storey block, and did not impact on neighbours' privacy or block sunlight.

Mrs Benouaich said: "The neighbours are almost all Jewish, so none of them complained when the council asked for comments. In fact they wrote saying they approved of the succah.

"It's a really small succah. It's very aesthetic. It's not an eyesore."

She said the length of time taken to gain permission had been "very upsetting" for the family: "It was an expensive case and has cost us a lot of money. We had to have an architect draw up plans, but for us it was all or nothing. "

A Hackney Council spokeswoman said: "All planning applications are considered on their own merits. In this case the design of the succah was considered to be modest."

Last updated: 10:45am, September 28 2012