Convened in response to a “considerable amount of anger in Bushey village” to the proposed local eruv, a “well-behaved” meeting to discuss the planning application on Tuesday attracted 180 people. A low-profile police presence reflected unfounded concern that the event might be hijacked by BNP or EDL members from nearby South Oxhey.
The meeting was chaired by Hertsmere councillor Carey Keates who has put himself forward as a community advocate to speak on the issue when the application comes up for consideration by the planning committee next Thursday. Councillor Keates felt the outrage was misguided — and in some cases, prejudiced. “I thought it would be a good idea to get a few facts out there.”
Three other local councillors attended the meeting, as well as a contingent from Bushey Synagogue, led by associate rabbi, Yosef Richards, and Daniel Blake, the Bushey board member overseeing the eruv application. They distributed an illustrated explanation of the eruv and related issues.
Councillor Keates said the mood at the outset had been largely opposed to the religious boundary, with a small number of Jews among the opponents.
However, with many of the questions given “well-considered responses” — particularly from Rabbi Richards — “I felt by the end of the meeting, that these feelings had been considerably dissipated”. Sufficiently so to encourage future dialogue.
The councillor was a member of the Hertsmere planning committee that in 2010 granted permission for the construction of an eruv in neighbouring Borehamwood. He has his own misgivings over the siting of eruv poles in the Bushey conservation area, where a campaign has long been waged to restrict street furniture clutter, but believes there are no real issues to prevent the Bushey application from being passed. “It is all fairly straightforward,” he said, a view supported by local Tory MP James Clappison.
A Bushey eruv was first mooted back in 2007. However, the poor financial climate had put the project on the back burner until this year. Now spearheaded by Mr Blake, planning applications have been made to both Hertsmere and Harrow, into whose jurisdiction the southern boundary of the eruv nudges.
Mr Blake vehemently rejected the claims of opponents that the eruv will have a significant impact on the locality or create a “Jewish exclusion zone”.
He said “the Bushey Jewish community has contributed a great deal to the life of the area. We have sought to promote a model of integration, tolerance for others and community cohesion. Our application will benefit a significant number of people in the local Jewish community, without having any detrimental effect on the wider population or the visual amenity of our area.”
He added that there was no anticipation that large numbers of Jews would move to Bushey as a result of the eruv. “The existence of eruvim in neighbouring areas such as Borehamwood, Stanmore, Edgware, Mill Hill and Barnet will balance this.”