London Orthodox, non-Jews face off over planning laws

(JTA) — A group of non-Jewish residents in a London neighborhood heavily populated with haredi Orthodox Jews is trying to prevent the haredim from changing city planning regulations.

Hackney Planning Watch, as the group in the Hackney neighborhood is known, recently produced a flyer warning, “Your neighborhood is in danger! Want your neighbor to extend their home to cover the whole of their back garden? Want to wake up and find a school has moved in next door?"

The flyer is part of the group’s fight against the bid of a largely haredi group named Stamford Hill Neighborhood Forum to gain control over planning in the neighborhood, which is home to a rapidly growing community of 20,000 Orthodox Jews and to non-Jews as well, according to the British daily newspaper The Guardian.

Hackney Planning Watch and Stamford Hill Neighborhood Forum are vying for control over planning regulations as part of the government’s "big society" policy of handing planning control to local communities.

The Stamford Hill Neighborhood Forum seeks to approve major extensions to lofts and build over gardens to house its rapidly growing population. 

But the Hackney Planning Watch, which reportedly is led by secular academics and trade unionists, is seeking to block such changes. Jane Holgate, a leader of Hackney Planning Watch, said she has been accused of anti-Semitism for her opposition to the plans — a claim she rejects. 

A Stamford Hill Neighborhood Forum leaflet accused Hackney Planning Watch of double standards, showing a loft extension built in the street where some of its leaders live. It asked, "Is it one rule for themselves and one rule for the ethnic communities?"

Any planning forum must be approved by the Hackney council.

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