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John Stebbing Architects’ modern synagogue gets go-ahead

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Hackney Council planners have approved a modern synagogue designed by John Stebbing Architects, despite residents’ objections

The new building, which fronts Clapton Common in Stamford Hill, will be purpose-built for the Bobov-45, an offshoot of the Bobov Hasidic Community.

The three-storey building will be built on a former pub already used by the synagogue and will include a basement hall, ritual Mikvah baths and study rooms.

The design by the Bury-based practice includes large windows covered with mesh to diffuse light and views in and out of the building.

Other elevations show stone panels, some with carved relief and others that have been set crooked to form narrow slot windows in the blank façade. 

The practice said that early engagement with local residents revealed a desire to see a ‘high-quality modern intervention’ rather than a pastiche.

But many neighbours have objected to the proposals, raising concerns about the impact of the building on the adjacent Grade II-listed Clapton Terrace and the Clapton Common Conservation Area.

Other residents complained that the building would generate additional light pollution and disturbance from the intensified use.

Local group the Clapton Conservation Areas Advisory Committee called the scheme ‘obtrusive’, adding: ‘It is clear that the applicant is specifically intent on devising a landmark building whose prominence is to be highlighted through both design and lighting, but this gives little regard to the appropriateness in this sensitive setting.’

But planning officers said the scheme had been through a ‘series of iterations’ and that the building had detailing ‘considered to have a positive visual presence’ on Clapton Common.

Practice founder John Stebbing congratulated Hackney’s planning authority on being so ‘open’ to new ideas.

He said: ‘Our clients should also be congratulated on the open approach they took during the design process. Being challenged by the design review panel to make the building better has really broadened their design horizon.’

Documents sent by the practice to Hackney Council describe a growing ambition among Stamford Hill’s Charedi community to ‘express themselves architecturally’. 

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