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”.
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.”