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Politicians unanimously approve controversial Bushey Jewish eruv boundary
Controversial plans to erect an aerial Jewish boundary around Bushey have been unanimously approved by politicians.
Residents packed the public gallery at Hertsmere Borough Council this evening to hear the application to install poles connected with fishing wire in 25 locations around Bushey to form an eruv.
The success of the eruv application, which was lodged on behalf of Bushey United Synagogue, in Sparrows Herne, will see a majority of poles 5.5metres high being erected across the area.
The religious boundary around Bushey will turn the town into an area where strict Sabbath rules are relaxed for orthodox Jews, such as carrying or transporting items like wheelchairs, pushchairs and handkerchiefs.
Speaking in support of the application, Dan Blake, from Bushey Unity Synagogue, said Hertsmere is a forward-thinking borough "where its residents live cohesively side by side".
Mr Blake added: "Despite fears voiced by objectors, the erection of poles will in no way create a Jewish exclusion zone.
He added: "We have sought to promote a model of integration, tolerance for others and community cohesion."
Hertsmere Borough Council approved the building of a similiar eruv in Borehamwood a few years ago and there are also eruvs in neighbouring London boroughs such as Edgware and Stanmore.
Mr Blake continued: "Arguments put forward and fears expressed by objectors in Bushey are not new.
"They have all been raised and addressed and found to be groundless in all these other eruv applications."
Gay Butler, who spoke on behalf of residents who opposing the application, said the poles would not preserve or enhance the special character of Bushey.
She added: "The submission of the eruv is supported by the Jewish orthodox community as a benefit to their lifestyle. It has no further benefits to the wider community."
Planning officials recommended that the politicians approve the application despite the fact the poles will be erected in the green belt, conservation area and within the setting of a listed building.
In documents submitted to the council, officers explained that the eruv is “a symbolic boundary which only has spiritual significance”.
The committee was advised they could only consider the possible tangible impacts of the poles and the wires.
Councillor Carey Keates, a Conservative representative for the Bushey St James ward spoke against the application, focusing primarily on the impact the proposal would have on the conservation area.
He referred to the public meeting last week in Falconer Road, which was attended by hundreds of people, where residents expressed their concerns over the eruv.
Bushey Heath Conservative, Councillor Seamus Quilty, asked planning officers why some issues over social inclusion and social exclusion were valid, yet other were not.
In documents submitted to the council, officers stated that: "The completion of the eruv would outweigh any objection on green belt principle. This is because, the advantage to the Jewish community in the support that the eruv would provide, is deemed as a very special circumstance to outweigh the harm."
Councillor Quilty said: "If we accept that the special circumstances is right then surly it must be right to actually question whether the eruv would promote social inclusion or social exclusion because that's what the officers are saying."
Councillor Quilty added that he had received hundreds of correspondence from residents voicing their concerns about the eruv.
Nonetheless, officers maintained that they recommended the application and that the planning law takes into consideration the effect the building would have on the environment, not theological ideas.
Later in the discussion, Conservative Councillor, Dan Griffin, said: "I don't understand why there is such furore about putting up 50 poles in Bushey. I wish someone would tell me why."
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