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Neighbours split over new synagogue’s wedding party plans

Scores of people send letters of support but some residents say events at 'shul' will lead to noisy nights and a squeeze on parking

14 March, 2019 — By Richard Osley

PLANNERS will decide tonight (Thursday) whether a redeveloped synagogue can host parties and private events, with opinion split over whether it will cause late-night disturbance.

Scores of members of the congregation at South Hampstead Synagogue in Eton Villas have written to Camden in support of the application. But several neighbours say they fear they will be disrupted by people leaving the venue, chatting as they go and shutting car doors.

Objections have also been raised in relation to how events at the synagogue will affect demands for parking in the area.

The new building in Belsize Park – which secured planning permission in 2016 – will have a calendar of religious events and activities. But the synagogue also wants permission to take 36 private bookings a year in its new basement so it can host wedding receptions and bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah parties. A timetable has been revised ahead of a council meeting this evening with requests for an 11pm finish on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and 10pm for the rest of the week.

Marshals will be used on the busiest days to control crowds and traffic, the synagogue said, while visitors will be en­cour­aged not to arrive by car.

Rabbi Shlomo Levin is due to speak in favour of the synagogue, described as “more than a shul”. Several people living in the area have filed objections, however, which have been published on council’s planning website.

Rabbi Shlomo Levin 

Lord Nicholas Phillips, the former Supreme Court president, said: “Noise from people arriving and leaving events has been a complaint in the past,” adding: “Regardless of requests for visitors to leave the building quietly, the overall number of people attending the venue will be disruptive to local residents.”

Meekal Hashmi, husband of the Today programme host Mishal Husain, said: “Can resident parking restrictions be extended to cover the hours of the synagogue opening?” and suggested elderly residents and those with children needed to be sure they could park near to their houses. Another objection said the redevelopment of the synagogue had made it into an “enormous private social club”. Members and supporters, however, insist the nature of the events likely to be hosted at the synagogue meant disruption was unlikely.

Member Brian Rubins said: “It is well known that the Jewish community drinks very little alcohol in comparison with the wider community and therefore rowdy behaviour both inside or outside the building is most unlikely to occur.”

He said the synagogue had operated in its previous building for 50 years without complaint.

Football journalist Raphael Honigstein told the council that the congregation was family-based and that “I am certain that the nature of the events will be reflective of that and pass off without any undue burden,” while QC Gary Blaker added: “To expect a wedding party to end at 10pm is unrealistic. The extra hour or so would make a significant difference to the ability of congregants to hold celebrations at the synagogue and not materially make a difference to local residents.”

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