Planners’ resistance to flats bid for synagogue

The Blackpool Synagogue on Leamington Road which Jewish Heritage hopes will remain a building to be used for worship by a faith group.
The Blackpool Synagogue on Leamington Road which Jewish Heritage hopes will remain a building to be used for worship by a faith group.
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Plans to convert part of a listed former synagogue into flats are being recommended for refusal.

Blackpool Council’s planning committee will debate the proposal for the site of the Blackpool United Hebrew Synagogue, on Leamington Road, in central Blackpool, on Tuesday.

The temple, which was built between 1916 and 1926, ceased to be used for its original purpose last year and now developer Thompson Property Investments hopes to convert the Grade II listed building into five self-contained flats.

But Dr Sharman Kadish, from the organisation Jewish Heritage UK, said: “We very much doubt that the proposed development will secure the long-term viability of the synagogue.

“Ideally, the synagogue should remain in use by a Jewish community, perhaps of another denomination, who would continue Jewish worship in the building.

“If this does not prove feasible then the building should be turned over to worship by another faith group in the town, with appropriate liturgical changes made.”

The council has received one objection from a Leamington Road resident, Mr R Knox, who said: “We have now had an opportunity to look at the proposed plans and I feel that the proposal for five flats is an over development of the confined plot, assuming that each flat occupant will have one vehicle.

“This will give severe problems regarding parking as we understand the addresses for these flats will be Leamington Road, which is a residential parking area and is extensively used.

“On most days it is difficult for us to find a parking space.”

The building, which is built in a Byzantine style, was altered in 1955 and 1976.

It was in regular active use until 2010 when the last Rabbi, David Braunold, left for the nearby St Annes Hebrew Congregation.

However, services were occasionally still held in the building until last year.

A heritage statement compiled on behalf of the developer says: “The greatest threat to this building is redundancy and in particular the loss of public access.

“A strategy to conserve this building would involve establishing a new use, conserving the most important elements in situ, and ensuring the memorials remain publicly accessible.

“For the memorial windows, some of which may have been relocated during previous work phases, this could entail relocation to ensure they remain in a place where they can be enjoyed by visitors.”

However, a pre-meeting report for councillors, prepared by planning officers, concludes: “The synagogue is a disused community facility which would be reduced in size and it has not been demonstrated that there is no longer a need for the facility or its alternative use to meet other community needs.

“The historic environment provides a tangible link with our past and contributes to our sense of national, local and community identity.

“It also provides the character and distinctiveness that is so important to a positive sense of place. The Synagogue is unique in Blackpool and tells of the story of changing demographics in the town as well as being an attractive building. The local planning authority has worked with the agent to try and secure a sustainable development.

“However, in this instance, for the reasons outlined in the assessment section of this report, it is felt that the proposal as it stands would be significantly detrimental.”

The planning meeting to discuss the synagogue’s future takes place at 5pm in Committee Room B of the Town Hall.

The developers behind the plans were not available for comment on the proposals today.

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