London council rejects station amendment plan to allow Jewish sect to travel on Tube

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London council rejects station amendment plan to allow Jewish sect to travel on Tube

A proposed 'second roof' was sought by Kohanim group citing concerns over nearby science museum containing body parts

An image of the proposed structure at South Kensington Tube station
An image of the proposed structure at South Kensington Tube station

A London borough has rejected an application to erect “a second roof” over an Underground station entrance so that a Jewish religious sect can enter.

Applicants had asked that South Kensington station be altered because the nearby Science Museum shares the same roof as the Underground line.

The Kohanim, a sect based on priestly lineage, asked for the changes because the museum contains human remains. They say this means they cannot use the Tube at South Kensington unless a second roof “breaks the connection to the museum”.

In the planning application – which was rejected by the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea – consultants for the Kohanim explained the problem.

“They [the Kohanim] have special rules and guidelines on how to behave that still go on until this day in age,” it said. “One is not to come in any shape or form in contact with a deceased (exceptions are made for immediate family), even not being under one roof.”

Applicants wanted the arched roof to be inscribed with explanatory text stating that “a Cohen (a person of priestly lineage) is forbidden to allow himself to become contaminated with negative spiritual forces, such as those emanating from a corpse.

“One of the ways of these forces being transmitted is by being under the same roof as the corpse, and therefore a Cohen must avoid entering any covered area containing one.”

The application met with several objections, including from the Knightsbridge Planning Association, with many citing the building’s heritage. A spokeswoman said the proposal was “incongruous” and “out-of-keeping”.

The station is Grade II listed and the council said the structural amendments – based on the size, design, and location – could do “irreparable harm” that would not be outweighed by the public good.

Rabbi Dünner of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, an umbrella group, sought to make adjustments, such as by omitting the explanatory text on the structure, but councillors still rejected the proposal.

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