The Sceptic Blog

Random thoughts of a random chappy

Moiser and Planning Permission – An Ugly Myth

with 3 comments

1.  It seems to be being suggested with increasing frequency that Jewish people confronted with planning permission issues in relation to property owned by other Jews are not allowed to follow the planning permission procedures, but must arbitrate through a Beis Din.

2.  This is nonsense (and, in so far as it is propounded by the Botei Din, distastefully self-serving nonsense).

3.  The law of moiser (“informing”) has two aspects.

4.  First, there is a Biblical requirement to litigate in the Jewish courts and not in the civil courts (technically, nothing to do with moiser, but often wrapped up in assertions of its application).  That is a firm prohibition of Jewish law.  It gives way only where the Jewish courts are not competent to deal with the matter.  So in the diaspora, anything criminal or with a criminal aspect goes straight to the secular authorities and courts; while even a financial dispute will be sent to the secular courts by the Beis Din if a party refuses to accept Beis Din jurisdiction or to comply with their orders.

5.  Secondly, there is the prohibition against handing Jews or their property over to wicked Romans or Cossacks – or the contemporary equivalent from time to time – for unjust treatment.

6.  There is, however, another little matter that is sometimes conveniently forgotten – dino d’malchuso dino.  Jews are obliged by Jewish law to obey the law of the land: and in so far as this cannot be enforced by the religious courts it can be enforced through the secular courts.

7.  With this background in mind, planning permission can be analysed as follows.

8.  It is the law of the UK that I may not build certain structures without the local authority’s planning permission.  If I do, I have broken UK law and Jewish law.  That is not a matter on which the Beis Din is competent in UK law: the Beis Din can arbitrate under the Arbitration Act, but that is appropriate for disputes about inter-personal liability, not for enforcement of breaches of the law.  Since the Botei Din are not competent to deal with the matter, it is halachically permissible to use the secular courts.

9.  As for moiser, the planning authorities are not wicked Cossacks arbitrarily pinching people’s property: they are a branch of law enforcement, enforcing the law that forms part of the social contract to comply with which Jewish residents are bound by UK and Jewish law.

10.  So to tell the local authority about a breach of planning permission is not halachically problematic.  Indeed, it is an obligation, because when so-called religious Jews flout the law of the land they create a chilul Hashem.

11.  Equally, the idea that I may not participate in the statutory planning permission process by registering objections when asked by the local authority what I think about a neighbour’s plans is absurd.

12.  Unhappily, this is another example of ways in which purportedly religious Jews are prepared to misuse and manipulate concepts of Jewish law to permit them to behave unlawfully and unethically and to line their own pockets at other people’s expense.


Written by Daniel Greenberg

June 6, 2010 at 9:10 am

3 Responses

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  1. Dear Daniel

    I am a long-term admirer of yours, having known you since the 1970’s. However, as a Chartered Surveyor and Chartered Town Planner for over 30 years, I have to admit – with great respect to you – that I cannot share the same sentiments.

    It is not, in fact, the law of the UK that I may not build without planning permission, unless it involves works to a Listed Building. One has not broken UK law, unless one receives an enforcement notice, and one fails to comply with it after it takes effect, or after it has been upheld on appeal. Those who build without planning permission are simply doing so at their own risk.

    I did ask Rav Cohn Shlita some time ago about the Din of ‘mesira’ in planning matters. His Psak was that Planning is no different to other disputes where ‘mesira le-akum’ is forbidden. This is because an objection by a neighbour is a civil matter and may only be lodged if by means of a Din Torah he has been given permission to object. Such permission needs to be given (in writing) by a Beis Din and can only be done after a full and fair hearing is completed. Rav Cohn had also mentioned to me that even if one’s opinion is sought as a neighbour, e.g. by the Council, one may not object, until a Beis Din has decided that there are just halachic grounds for such an objection. This was also the view of Rav Korelitz Shlita, Av Beis Din of Bnei Brak.

    I have professionally been involved in a number of cases, where the injustice caused to a neighbour by building works was solved more satisfactorily by a Beis Din than by a local authority. The resulting Kiddush Hashem seems to be noticed more by our Gentile friends than by our Jewish ones!

    Warm regards
    Eli Pick


    February 9, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    • I had a problem about the comment above, deciding whether or not to allow it past moderation. I have decided to allow it, purely because the author is an extremely splendid fellow of unimpeachable integrity. As to his comment, however, it shows an (entirely pardonable and explicable) lack of understanding of the nature of the law of the United Kingdom. When section 57 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 says “planning permission is required for the carrying out of any development of land” it does not mean “but by all means have a go at building without permission and see if you get away with it”! Eli Pick’s comment makes a common confusion of enforcement with lawfulness. The fact that there is a mechanism for enforcement that may not always be invoked does not make lawful that which is contrary to the law. If botei din are charging round paskaning on the basis of the confusion between enforcement and lawfulness then they are, I fear, misdirecting themselves as to the state of the law of the United Kingdom and are, in consequence, erring in halochoh.

      Daniel Greenberg

      February 9, 2011 at 4:27 pm

      • On the subject of planning permission not being simply a “civil matter” between two parties, see the following: “The first point to note is that the planning system exists to protect the public interest, not to protect private interests: see PPG1: General Policy and Principles, paragraph 17 (first version, 1988), and The Planning System: General Principles, published by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister in 2005, paragraph 29 (and still current). Nevertheless both grants and refusals of planning permission impact upon private interests, sometimes to a substantial extent. Grants of planning permission may result in the character of an area being changed, with consequential effects upon private rights.” – Coventry (t/a RDC Promotions & Anor v Lawrence & Ors [2012] EWCA Civ 26.

        Daniel Greenberg

        March 18, 2012 at 9:16 am

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