Renders show the proposed redevelopment of the Cambridge Jewish CentreCambridge University Jewish Society with permission for Varsity

Proposals for a new Cambridge synagogue have been scuppered after a planning appeal by the University Jewish Society (JSoc) was rejected.

A planning inspector has ruled that plans for a new Jewish centre would have an “intrusive impact” on neighbouring homes and “unduly harm” living conditions.

This comes after the Cambridge City Council’s initial rejection of the plans in January.

JSoc have said that the existing synagogue is “inadequate” and no “longer fit for purpose”.

In plans seen by Varsity, Cambridge University Jewish Society said that the current building “both challenges the Society’s ability to fulfil its unique responsibilities toward Jewish students, and limits the scope of activities which can be facilitated”.

Events, organised for the Jewish student community of around 1200 people, are reported as being “crowded” and “uncomfortable”, with some not being able to take place at all.

Varsity has seen images showing mould inside the existing building.

Conditions inside the existing building have been described as 'inadequate'Cambridge University Jewish Society with permission for Varsity

Council members have voiced apprehensions regarding the “bulky design” of the new synagogue and its potential ramifications on neighbouring properties.

Representatives of the society were “surprised at the hostility displayed” during planning meetings.

The planning inspector did, however, contest the city council’s concerns regarding the design of the new building. They expressed confidence that it would be “compatible with the relatively diverse surrounding” buildings and said it would make a “positive contribution to the street scene”.

The planning inspector also acknowledged the “significant” public advantages of the redevelopment, noting that the new Synagogue would provide support to the Jewish community in the city. They also recognised the current inadequacy of the existing building, stating that it was “too small” for its intended purpose.


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The inspector has remarked that these benefits do not outweigh the potential harm of the project.

The inspector said: “I am mindful that in not granting planning permission, individuals using the existing facility will need to continue using a building that is not fit for purpose and this will have a negative impact upon their enjoyment of the building, their ability to practice their faith and their wellbeing.”

A spokesperson for Cambridge University Jewish Society said that they are “disappointed and upset” over the appeal’s rejection.

“As we have said throughout the process, our current building is simply no longer fit for purpose. The proposed building would have greatly enhanced the cultural and religious activities of our society which provides a space for the 1200 Jewish students in Cambridge,” the group said.

“Due to this decision, our community will continue to be restricted by its infrastructure for the foreseeable future,” JSoc added.