Federation wins battle over headstones at new cemetery


The Federation of Synagogues has won the right to erect upright headstones in its new cemetery in Edgware despite council officers’ objections that they would spoil the green-belt character of the location.

Barnet Council’s planning committee overrode the recommendations of their officials and last night voted in favour of the synagogue body.

Federation president Andrew Cohen, who was among a large crowd of its members who turned up to the meeting at Hendon Town Hall, said they were “delighted at the outcome”.

The organisation’s first cemetery in north-west London, where the bulk of its members live, is due to open this year.
The area had been designated as a woodland cemetery where only flat gravestones would be permitted.

But the Federation argued that it had been the longstanding tradition within Ashkenazi communities to have vertical headstones.

Planning officers advised that “given the clearly identified harm to the openness of the green belt, it is not considered that there are very special circumstances that would outweigh the harm”.

A Jewish resident who lives opposite the site echoed the concerns, saying the stones would go against the rural character.

But support for the Federation came both from Greater London Assembly member for Barnet Andrew Dismore and his Conservative opponent in the forthcoming GLA elections, Dan Thomas, deputy leader of the council.

Mr Dismore argued that there was an “acute need for additional burial space” and “cultural and religious expectations” for upright stones.

He also stressed that “there is going to be proper screening” around the burial ground.

Federation trustee Menachem Gertner invoked the Bible, pointing out when the patriarch Jacob buried his wife Rachel, he erected “a monument”.

Councillor Jim Tierney, a member of the planning committee which voted for the headstones without opposition, said, “People need to commemorate their loved ones the way they want to”.

The Federation cemetery at Edmonton is almost full, while Rainham in Essex is an hour and a half’s drive away for its growing north-west London community. It recently sold an unused part of Rainham for more than £8 million.

Mr Cohen commented, “Work can now proceed in satisfying all conditions of the permission and the commencement of the groundworks. Barnet Council has once again shown its true support for the Jewish community of North West London and is to be commended.”

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