Tories accuse Mayor of Hackney of ‘oppressing’ orthodox Jewish families over loft extensions

Former mayor says planning policy makes Chareidi community “uncomfortable”

ANGRY community leaders in Stamford Hill have accused Hackney mayor Jules Pipe of “oppressing” orthodox Jewish families and pushing them out of the borough in a row over loft extensions.

Veteran Tory politician Joe Lobenstein was joined by the borough’s four Conservative councillors in condemning Mr Pipe and the town hall’s treatment of large families.

They told the Gazette that Hackney’s orthodox Jewish residents felt ostracised because size restrictions on loft extensions, set out by the council’s SPD (supplementary planning document) on residential extensions and alterations, agreed in April 2009, meant they could not accommodate their children.

Mr Lobenstein, a former mayor of Hackney before the directly elected role was introduced, accused Mr Pipe of running the council like a dictatorship and refusing to recognise the needs of the Chareidi community.

“We are not accusing the council of being anti-Semitic, but, unfortunately, some of their policies are making us feel uncomfortable,” he said.

Cllr Benzion Papier, who won the New River ward by-election in September, said: “Mr Pipe speaks about social cleansing with respect to the Conservatives’ budget cuts, but he is the first one to introduce social cleansing by oppressing the Jewish community by not letting them expand.”

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Springfield ward councillor Simche Steinberger told the Gazette that many families, some with 10 children or more, were being forced to move to the neighbouring borough of Haringey, where planning regulations were more lenient.

“But all that the families want is to be able to live in peace and quiet in their own homes,” he said.

The group, including Lordship ward councillor Bernard Aussenberg and Hackney’s Conservative leader, Cllr Michael Levy, vowed to raise awareness of the families’ plight. They questioned the council’s consultation process on the current extensions policy.

A council spokesman said: “The residential extensions SPD that we have adopted was subject to an equalities impact assessment and, in the council’s view, does not oppress a particular community or communities.

“The SPD went through extensive consultation and a transparent, democratic, decision-making process before adoption.

“All sections of the community were able to comment on it during this process.

“Hackney Council has a consistent approach to loft extensions across the borough.”