A bid to use a Canvey home as a synagogue on the argument that it was similar to a home with a swimming pool where pool parties are often held has been rejected.

More than 40 worshippers are said to use the property in Furtherwick Road, Canvey – a number planning inspector Timothy King has said is “substantial and particularly significant, irrespective of whether it involves only a few actual families.”

Mr King rejected the argument put forward by owner Rabbi Joseph Paneth that the use of the property was the same as one where outside parties are often held.

Rabbi Paneth attempted to illustrate his point that the prayer meetings and religious instruction taking place are incidental to the residential use of the dwelling. However, the inspector said it was “most unlikely” a domestic pool party would be held every Friday evening and Saturday morning every week of the year.

Mr King added that it is “further unlikely that such garden parties would consistently involve the numbers of people attending the property for prayers”.

The inspector said regular prayer meetings take place on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings. On Fridays, from approximately one hour before sunset, Sabbath prayers will take place, lasting for one and a half hours.

However, on Saturdays and festival days – of the latter, there are 22 such days throughout the year – approximately six hours will be taken up with prayer.

The appeal was made by Rabbi Paneth and his wife Hindy against an enforcement notice issued by Castle Point Borough Council on 11 January 2022.

Rabbi Paneth, an orthodox Jew, his wife, Hindy and their six children, moved to the property in 2019.

In February 2020 the Council first received complaints that the dwelling was being used as a place of worship. Council officials issued a Planning Contravention Notice (PCN) in November 2020, alleging that the property was being used as a place of worship.

Although not directly related to the recent appeal an application was submitted to the council in March 2021 proposing sub-dividing the property into a residential part and a synagogue on the southern section. Planning permission was refused in October 2021.

By January 2022 the council issued an enforcement notice requiring the cessation of what it considered to be the dwelling’s mixed use. It was this enforcement notice that Rabbi Paneth had appealed against.

He argued holding prayer meetings is incidental to the residential use. He said that this “enhances the residential use” and is “purely to allow Rabbi Paneth to pray with a quorum at home”.

This involves a minimum number of ten males, which constitutes a community of Israel for liturgical purposes.

The prayers take place in the dwelling’s dining room. A second, smaller room, off the hall, is the appellant’s private study, for which tables are laid out to enable up to five ladies to pray. There is also an element of theological study. In addition, within the rear garden is a mikvah where Rabbi Paneth invites prayer-goers for a ritual bath.

Rabbi Paneth accepted in evidence that there have been occasions where over 40 persons have attended, although he says that the average is some 13 to 14 attendees.

Mr King said that “nonetheless, over 40 persons is substantial and particularly significant, irrespective of whether it involves only a few actual families”.

He said that in this particular case, the volume of people visiting the property for prayers and the regularity of such strongly suggests “an assembly use which cannot reasonably be considered as incidental to the dwelling’s residential use”.

A statement from Mr King said: “Having had regard to all the evidence adduced, including the photographic evidence provided, I find that the property’s current use goes beyond what might be considered as incidental to its residential and householder purpose.

“The frequent comings and goings, every week, have changed the dwelling’s residential character by introducing a marked and significant assembly use.

“Whether or not the use of the property attracts large numbers of people only at particular times of the day doesn’t alter my conclusion.

“From the various evidence put forward, I find that the allegation in the enforcement notice is correct and that the planning position has changed materially, constituting development, since the prayer meetings first commenced.

“Accordingly, the appeal does not succeed.”