Succahs banned in Stamford Hill housing block built to accommodate Charedi Jews

Just days before Succot begins, council bosses told residents they were not allowed to build succot on their balconies


A sukkah or succah is a temporary hut constructed for use during the week-long Jewish festival of Sukkot. It is topped with branches and often well decorated with autumnal, harvest or Judaic themes

Residents of Stamford Hill’s Orthodox Jewish community are outraged after being told by Hackney council that they are no longer allowed to build succahs on their balconies, leaving them in limbo just days before Succot begins.

During the week-long festival, strictly Orthodox Jews consume all food and drink in a succah.

The Tower Court apartment complex, which was completed last year, was built with special features to accommodate the local Orthodox community, including balconies with a unobstructed view of the sky, designed for succahs, and Shabbat-compliant elevators.

But last month, citing new requirements in the Building Safety and Fire Safety legislation, Hackney council informed residents that succahs on balconies were a fire hazard and posed a “significant level of risk to [the] lives of residents” and therefore would not be permitted.

A resident of the complex, who wished to remain anonymous, told the JC: “In the name of safety, Hackney council is backtracking and creating so much burden and worry and has not given the community enough time to find a suitable compromise.”

Following an inspection on August 25 by Hackney council’s House Service, a new site for communal succahs was recommended — four parking spaces near the rear end of the ground-floor car park.

But this, residents say, would not be large enough to accommodate all the families. Approximately half of the occupants of the 132-flat complex are Orthodox Jews.

The resident said: “[The council] appears to be generous by suggesting families make the succah [in the car park], but they are demonstrating their cultural insensitivity.

“Besides the fact that the area is not enclosed in an eruv, which makes bringing food out to the area impossible on Shabbat, they cannot expect large families with many young children or disabled and elderly people to go down five floors or more every time they want to drink a sip of water.”

Residents instead offered to use fireproof materials to construct the balcony tabernacles, which is common practice in boroughs such as Barnet, but after initially receiving unofficial approval from council inspectors, this too was rejected after residents waited three weeks for a response.

“We moved into this building very happily because it fits our needs unlike anywhere else in England, but now we feel we are being treated very unfairly. Succot should be a time of joy for us, but now there is friction and heartache,” the resident said.

A spokesperson for Hackney council said that succah balconies were “considered as part of the new Tower Court scheme at design stage. However, since planning permission was granted for Tower Court, the tragedy at Grenfell Tower occurred and fire safety regulations were consequently reviewed and changed.

“This includes implementation of a new set of fire safety and building safety legislation.”

They added: “We are looking to work with the local community to see whether there is a way to allow succahs to be built on balconies in future without exposing residents to unacceptable levels of fire risk.”

The spokesperson said that “within the next couple of days, additions will be made to the Tower Court boundary that will allow the Tower Court Estate to form an independent eruv until it can be incorporated within the South Tottenham eruv”.

The Jewish Community Council (JCC), a community-led organisation based in the area, said they "share the concerns" of Tower Court residents and that the situation was "deeply upsetting given the [building] was intended to be culturally sensitive".

They added: "We very much hope the council and residents can find a solution in order to allow families to celebrate Succot."

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