Local MP Graham Brady has called on the Trust behind the proposed Hale Eruv to reconsider so as not to risk creating “rancour and intolerance” in the area.
The Hale Eruv Project Charitable Trust has submitted plans to Trafford Council for the creation of a 12-mile “symbolic boundary” around Hale and Hale Barns that will allow orthodox Jews to carry or push certain items – including young children in prams or disabled people in wheelchairs – outside of their homes on the Sabbath.
While existing street furniture will be used where possible, the Eruv will require the erection of 95 galvanised steel poles, the majority of which are six metres in height, all linked by a fine wire. See a full list of proposed locations here.
The local community made their opposition to the plans clear at a public meeting back in 2014, and over 500 letters of objection have been received by the council since the revised plans were submitted last month, with fewer than 100 letters in support. A multi-faith action group has also been set up to fight the plans.
And Brady, MP for Altrincham & Sale West, believes the plans should be withdrawn.
He told Altrincham Today: “It is obvious that the proposed Eruv is causing considerable controversy.
“In Altrincham and Sale we are privileged to enjoy extraordinarily good relations between different faith communities, local people are tolerant and fully support the right of others to worship freely.
“It would be tragic if the Eruv project were to bring rancour and intolerance where we are used to calm and respect for others: for this reason, I hope that the promoters of the scheme will reconsider.”
It’s also come to light that the Trust’s leader, Rabbi Joel Portnoy, appears to have given contrasting accounts of how many people will actually benefit from the Eruv.
Audio provided by Neil Taylor from the 2014 public meeting in Hale Barns reveals that Portnoy said that “the number of families who are currently are proactively Sabbath-observant are only a certain number of 10s”.
However, during an interview on BBC Radio 4 last week, he told reporter Kevin Bocquet that the number was in fact “significantly more than a hundred”.
Listen to the two excerpts here:
The Eruv, which would be only the 11th of its kind in the UK, is described as a “religiously symbolic area defined by a continuous geographic route designated in accordance with ancient rabbinic principles and for the Jewish community”.
The Hale Eruv Project Charitable Trust says it will “allow greater movement and freedom to the local Jewish community on the Sabbath… This will be particularly significant for those with young children or the elderly, infirm or disabled persons who rely upon aids to assist their movement to go about their daily business on the Sabbath”.
It claims there will be “no ecological impact arising from the proposals” and that “the benefit of the proposals for the local Jewish community constitutes very special circumstance which outweighs any potential harm the scheme may be considered to have”.
Altrincham Today has so far been unable to speak directly to the The Hale Eruv Project Charitable Trust.
Watch: Rabbi Portnoy interviewed during BBC North West Tonight report on the Eruv plans: