Monday, 27 February 2012

Rabbi Abraham Pinter: Charedi leaders not to blame

Rabbi Abraham Pinter has answered a number of question on Stamford Hill's Charedi community. Here he discusses the role of its leaders and whether the should criticise members of the community who ignore planning rules.

A full list of questions put to Rabbi Pinter and links to his answers can be found here.

Do you think the leadership of the Charedi community can be held responsible for any of the current tension? Should they condemn people and institutions who break planning rules? (Hackney Council claims Charedi witnesses lied in public inquiry)

Rabbi Pinter: No, because as I explained earlier the Charedi community is not homogenous, and is made up of many different groups, each with their own ideology. Therefore the community does not have a leadership hierarchy in that sense. But each of these groups has their own leaders.

The problem arises when there is no available accommodation for when a group has to meet a particular need - as for example education. When faced with this kind of dilemma need overcomes others considerations, sometimes resulting in building extensions which ignore planning rules. The theory is often that they will square it with the authorities at a later date: First of all, we need a place to put our students. While the end does not justify the means, overstepping planning rules should be viewed from this angle, rather than as a blatant attempt to ignore and trample on local planning rules.

The perceived leaders are only in their positions by consent, rather then by authority. Condemning people for ignoring planning rules which though unlawful is not a criminal offence would be a gross overstepping of that position.

It is for the authorities to enforce regulations. To be honest, the local authority could have done more to avoid this situation. The community has been living in Hackney for seven decades, and with a bit of foresight and planning the council could have provided viable solutions so that everybody would be happy. If borough plans make no provision for schools or synagogues for a growing population, then there are going to be problems. I believe that there are now people in the council, both officers and members, who want to deal with this.

Do you condone schools that do not ask for planning permission? (Stamford Hill's illegal schools)

Rabbi Pinter: No. But it is not as simple as that and you have to recognise that the school in question may have found themselves between a rock and a hard place. Did the school in question have a viable alternative?

I believe that the council has an obligation to look at the infrastructure of the community and to look at the needs of the community: How many children there are and how many school places there are, and plan accordingly. Hackney has never done this, resulting in thousands of children being educated in less then desirable circumstances.

But that doesn’t mean that I am condoning what is happening in the community. I’m not condoning it, but I can understand it – and I don’t think there is any ulterior motive. It has occurred simply because there are no other options.

I’ve have always thought that the council should be more proactive in helping the community find solutions. There should be more strategic work being done. That hasn’t happened in the past. It’s very difficult when you expect the local authority to be working with local people – when they have the resources to know what the growth is, and what the needs are – and yet people are left to find their own solutions. Consequently these haven’t been as desirable as other people in the area would want them to be.

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