Finchley Reform Synagogue: 'we have ensured the future of an outstanding kindergarten'

Times Series: FRS Rabbi Miriam Berger with kindergarten headteacher Sharon Lee. FRS Rabbi Miriam Berger with kindergarten headteacher Sharon Lee.

A North Finchley synagogue has pledged to improve parking in the area after being granted permission for increasing the number of children attending its kindergarten.  

There was standing room only at Barnet Borough Council's east area planning sub-committee last night, when Barnet councillors discussed plans submitted by Finchley Reform Synagogue (FRS) to increase its kindergarten’s intake from 42 children to 60 children, which it had done in 2007.

The synagogue, in Fallow Court Avenue, had approval from Ofsted but the council did not sanction the increase.

Addressing last night’s committee, Charles Kessler, chairman of the synagogue’s development programme, said: “We apologise for not bringing this to your attention until 2010 when we first realised the problem.”

Despite the council receiving 446 letters of support for the plans, they were fierce objections from neighbours who said traffic has become unbearable since the kindergarten increased its numbers, putting people at “serious risk”.

A total of 280 objections were lodged, as well as a petition with 25 signatures.

Michel Couque, who has lived in the same street as the synagogue for 17 years, said: “This is an issue about the high levels of parking and traffic generated by the unauthorised use that have made it impossible for residents to lead a normal life.

“The council must take steps to reduce on-street parking to pre-2007 levels. The roads have reached saturation point due to the unauthorised use. Surrounding streets cannot cope now; they will not be able to in the future.”

Mr Couque also attacked a traffic assessment the synagogue submitted as part of the application.

He called the assessment “limited” because it was only carried out on one working day, and said it did not take into account “a high number of crossovers, disabled bays or yellow bands” in the area.

Talking about photo evidence neighbours collated themselves, he said: “Photos taken over 16 months prove demonstrable harm, showing high levels of kindergarten-generated traffic and illegal parking, many taken while the numbers were below 60.”

Councillors agreed parking is a problem, but Mr Kessler said the synagogue is working on its “green policies” to minimise people travelling by car, and encourage those who do drive, to park legally.

He said FRS is also encouraging parents to share cars, join its walking club and has set up a bicycle rack.

Councillor Alan Schneiderman said: “The kindergarten is providing a high quality service and is rated outstanding by Ofsted. We have to balance that against the needs of nearby residents. If the application is passed I’d want to be assured the situation for the residents is significantly improved and everybody is able to live around there in harmony.”

The plans were approved, and FRS will now continue to press ahead with an application to extend its synagogue, although no date has been set for when these plans will be submitted.

Speaking after the meeting Mr Kessler said: “We’re really pleased we have ensured the future of an outstanding kindergarten.

“We are very keen to make it a practical, working environment for residents, parents and even more importantly, the children. We work very hard on our green policies and will continue to do so.”

Muireann Kelly, who has lived in Fallow Court Avenue for 17 years and is a member of North Finchley Town Team, said: “We knew they would pass it, but when FRS goes for its extension, at least the parking problems in the area have been noted.”

Comments (1)

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9:55am Sat 11 Jan 14

Another FCA Resident says...

We are disappointed that FRS’s unlawful activity listed in the planning applications (kindergarten numbers, hours of operation, continued use of temporary building) were regularised at the Committee Meeting last night on the basis of Class D1 Use ( Non-Residential Institutions: places of worship, non-residential education), as we hoped our objections would result in alleviating our valid concerns.

FRS has not applied to regularise other unlawful activity and residents have made formal complaints to Barnet Council that these conditions be enforced.

Whilst we are upset that the Committee agreed to regularise 3 counts of unlawful activity, breaches of conditions that were imposed to safeguard and protect residents’ amenities, we hope that Barnet Council can no longer ignore the serious issues of FRS Synagogue/Kindergart
en/Hebrew Class generated illegal, dangerous and inconsiderate parking on double yellow lines and over residents’ driveways, and dropping off on the junction of Fallow Court Avenue, on corners and in the middle of the road.

The Traffic Assessment carried out on 1 working day on behalf of FRS was discredited by residents providing evidence of illegal parking, dangerous manoeuvres and over saturation of parking in the streets surrounding FRS, in the form of 6,000 photographs taken over 16 months, covering 230 days.

The Travel Plan carried out on behalf of FRS was said by Councillors to be inadequate and FRS were instructed to produce a much stricter Travel Plan to be monitored more frequently and were told they must take effective steps to alleviate the serious parking and traffic issues that clearly exist.

Barnet Council planning officers have not aided cohesion between the FRS community and the local community.

Councillors commented that Barnet Council had been extremely lax in monitoring and enforcing conditions. Barnet Council received formal requests from residents to enforce conditions in 2012 and 2013.

Councillors commented that they had received 288 objections from neighbours and residents, a weighty number, showing clearly how many are resentful of the inconvenience caused by FRS generated activity and that residents clearly had a valid reason to feel this way.

Councillors strongly suggested that FRS take steps to restore harmony.

Where the residents’ case to the Committee ‘fell down’ was that out of neighbourliness and goodwill they made complaints over many years directly to FRS Synagogue and Kindergarten, not wanting to get them into trouble, just hoping that FRS would be considerate of their neighbours and take effective steps to remedy any problems. They didn’t, the problems increased and worsened. As we have now learned, residents must make formal complaints direct to Barnet Council and obtain a receipt.

Sadly, due to the lack of transparency and manner of handling these and last year’s applications, together with years of noise, disturbance, illegal, inconsiderate and saturated parking, there do not appear to be many feelings of goodwill left.

Residents have at no time “tried to take away our children’s education” as accused by an FRS member at a children’s birthday party. Nor are we “the nasty neighbours” as another FRS member accused a resident at a business function. Nor have we “spread lies” as another resident was accused by a leading synagogue member. We have merely tried to highlight our legitimate needs and rights by executing our rights as residents to try to achieve this by raising awareness within our local community and objecting to applications highly likely to cause further nuisance and inconvenience, disruption to traffic flow, no parking spaces for residents anywhere in their own streets and causing obstruction preventing access by emergency vehicles.

Those opposed to FRS’s building project did not “use the kindergarten numbers as a weapon in their armoury” as posted by FRS on their facebook page 6/1/14 – a rather inflammatory comment likely to incite FRS members in very unpleasant way. We have legitimately and honestly objected to the continuous, daily high levels of illegal, dangerous and inconsiderate parking caused by the extremely high level of FRS and Kindergarten staff, parents/carers, members, users and visitors.

Residents in the streets surrounding the FRS do not deserve to be treated with this disrespect, lack of consideration or unpleasantness. We have a right to residential amenities and Barnet Council have failed to protect these on our behalf.
We are disappointed that FRS’s unlawful activity listed in the planning applications (kindergarten numbers, hours of operation, continued use of temporary building) were regularised at the Committee Meeting last night on the basis of Class D1 Use ( Non-Residential Institutions: places of worship, non-residential education), as we hoped our objections would result in alleviating our valid concerns. FRS has not applied to regularise other unlawful activity and residents have made formal complaints to Barnet Council that these conditions be enforced. Whilst we are upset that the Committee agreed to regularise 3 counts of unlawful activity, breaches of conditions that were imposed to safeguard and protect residents’ amenities, we hope that Barnet Council can no longer ignore the serious issues of FRS Synagogue/Kindergart en/Hebrew Class generated illegal, dangerous and inconsiderate parking on double yellow lines and over residents’ driveways, and dropping off on the junction of Fallow Court Avenue, on corners and in the middle of the road. The Traffic Assessment carried out on 1 working day on behalf of FRS was discredited by residents providing evidence of illegal parking, dangerous manoeuvres and over saturation of parking in the streets surrounding FRS, in the form of 6,000 photographs taken over 16 months, covering 230 days. The Travel Plan carried out on behalf of FRS was said by Councillors to be inadequate and FRS were instructed to produce a much stricter Travel Plan to be monitored more frequently and were told they must take effective steps to alleviate the serious parking and traffic issues that clearly exist. Barnet Council planning officers have not aided cohesion between the FRS community and the local community. Councillors commented that Barnet Council had been extremely lax in monitoring and enforcing conditions. Barnet Council received formal requests from residents to enforce conditions in 2012 and 2013. Councillors commented that they had received 288 objections from neighbours and residents, a weighty number, showing clearly how many are resentful of the inconvenience caused by FRS generated activity and that residents clearly had a valid reason to feel this way. Councillors strongly suggested that FRS take steps to restore harmony. Where the residents’ case to the Committee ‘fell down’ was that out of neighbourliness and goodwill they made complaints over many years directly to FRS Synagogue and Kindergarten, not wanting to get them into trouble, just hoping that FRS would be considerate of their neighbours and take effective steps to remedy any problems. They didn’t, the problems increased and worsened. As we have now learned, residents must make formal complaints direct to Barnet Council and obtain a receipt. Sadly, due to the lack of transparency and manner of handling these and last year’s applications, together with years of noise, disturbance, illegal, inconsiderate and saturated parking, there do not appear to be many feelings of goodwill left. Residents have at no time “tried to take away our children’s education” as accused by an FRS member at a children’s birthday party. Nor are we “the nasty neighbours” as another FRS member accused a resident at a business function. Nor have we “spread lies” as another resident was accused by a leading synagogue member. We have merely tried to highlight our legitimate needs and rights by executing our rights as residents to try to achieve this by raising awareness within our local community and objecting to applications highly likely to cause further nuisance and inconvenience, disruption to traffic flow, no parking spaces for residents anywhere in their own streets and causing obstruction preventing access by emergency vehicles. Those opposed to FRS’s building project did not “use the kindergarten numbers as a weapon in their armoury” as posted by FRS on their facebook page 6/1/14 – a rather inflammatory comment likely to incite FRS members in very unpleasant way. We have legitimately and honestly objected to the continuous, daily high levels of illegal, dangerous and inconsiderate parking caused by the extremely high level of FRS and Kindergarten staff, parents/carers, members, users and visitors. Residents in the streets surrounding the FRS do not deserve to be treated with this disrespect, lack of consideration or unpleasantness. We have a right to residential amenities and Barnet Council have failed to protect these on our behalf. Another FCA Resident

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