Holocaust memorial next to Houses of Parliament gets charity backing

Benefits of building national Holocaust memorial next to the Houses of Parliament ‘could not be achieved elsewhere’, charity tells High Court

  • Learning from the Righteous have backed plans for £100m Holocaust memorial
  • Plans to build 23 bronze sculptures and learning centre were approved last year
  • Memorial site will be at Victoria Tower Gardens – next to Houses of Parliament
  • But decision to give permission for plans is being challenged in the High Court
  • Those opposing proposals say memorial is the ‘right idea, in the wrong place’ 

An education charity has backed plans for a £100million national Holocaust memorial next to the Houses of Parliament, arguing its benefits ‘could not be achieved elsewhere’.

In the latest hearing of a High Court battle over the plans, Learning from the Righteous said it was in support of building the UK Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in Victoria Tower Gardens in central London.

Bosses for the charity, which teaches children about the value of acts of rescue during the Holocaust, say they believe the proposed memorial location would ‘enhance its power as an educational tool exponentially’.

The charity’s arguments were made as part of a legal challenge over planning permission for the memorial in the small triangular Grade II listed park in Westminster.

The London Historic Parks and Gardens Trust is bringing the High Court case against the Government, arguing that the project is the ‘right idea, wrong place’ and that the decision-making process was flawed.

The London Historic Parks and Gardens Trust is bringing the High Court case against the Government, arguing that the project is the ‘right idea, wrong place’ and that the decision-making process was flawed. Pictured: Protestors opposing the plans outside the High Court yesterday

In the latest hearing of a High Court battle over the plans, Learning from the Righteous said it was in support of building the UK Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in Victoria Tower Gardens in central London (pictured: An artist’s impression of the site)

Proposals to install 23 large bronze sculptures and an underground learning centre at Victoria Tower Gardens – a small triangular park next to the Palace of Westminster – were approved in July last year. Pictured: An artist’s impression of the site

The trust, whose bid to quash the decision is opposed by ministers, is focusing its case on the evaluation of alternative sites and the impact the development may have on the heritage setting, including the Buxton Memorial which celebrates the abolition of slavery.

In written arguments submitted for a hearing before Mrs Justice Thornton at the Royal Courts of Justice this week, Learning from the Righteous said the scheme was ‘unique’.

Zack Simons, representing the charity, wrote: ‘The memorial and learning centre’s location is intrinsic to its purpose and function.

‘That is because the place from which we remember an event shapes how we remember it.

‘The resonance between the scheme’s content and its location make it unique.’

He added: ‘The scheme’s location will enhance its power as an educational tool exponentially.

‘The scheme will galvanise, focus and coordinate teaching and learning about the Holocaust in the UK for future generations.’

Mr Simons continued: ‘This scheme would not be the same kind of memorial or learning centre if sited elsewhere. It would not produce the same content, serve the same purpose, fulfil the same function or be appreciated in the same way.’

Those behind the plans say the memorial will mark the atrocities committed by the Nazis against the Jewish people – and other minorities such as the Romani – during the Second World War. Pictured: An artist’s impression of the site

An artist’s impression showing the park view of the proposed Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in Westminster

Scheduled to open in 2024, the centre is intended to be the focal point for national remembrance of the six million Jewish men, women and children murdered in the Holocaust and all other victims of Nazi persecution, along with providing a place for reflection on ‘subsequent genocides’. Pictured: An artist’s impression of the site

An artist’s impression issued by the UK Holocaust Memorial showing the park view of the proposed Holocaust Memorial

A total of £75 million of public money has already been put towards construction costs, with the investment due to be supplemented by £25 million from charitable donations

Planning permission for the memorial was granted last July by then-planning minister Chris Pincher following a public inquiry and the recommendations of planning inspector David Morgan.

The decision had been delegated by former communities secretary Robert Jenrick, who had applied for planning permission.

The scheme, due to open in 2024, will be the focal point for national remembrance of the six million Jewish men, women and children murdered in the Holocaust and all other victims of Nazi persecution, along with providing a place for reflection on ‘subsequent genocides’.

Mr Simons said the inspector and planning minister had given ‘very considerable weight’ to the benefits associated with ‘delivering this nationally and internationally important scheme on one of the country’s most prominent sites’ which were not offered at ‘alternative locations’ before the inquiry.

He said they were right to accept that ‘the benefits associated with locating the national holocaust memorial and learning centre on this site simply could not be achieved elsewhere’.

Planning permission for the memorial came after the Government ‘called in’ the decision in November 2019 rather than have it determined by the local authority – Westminster City Council.

Ahead of the hearing, protestors gathered outside The Royal Courts of Justice in London holding signs, including one saying: ‘Right idea, wrong place’

Another sign read: ‘Save Victoria Tower Gardens: Not all Holocaust survivors want this plan.’

Lawyers for the Government have argued that there was ‘no error of law’ in the planning permission decision-making process and policy had not been ‘misinterpreted or misapplied’.

In written arguments, Christopher Katkowski QC, representing the role of the Communities Secretary, said he had argued that the ‘momentous’ memorial’s location would give it ‘the gravitas it needs’.

He said the trust ‘oversimplifies and mischaracterises’ the inspector’s analysis, adding that he had ‘explained what are after all judgment-calls in a perfectly adequate manner’ and there was ‘not a trace of perversity’ in his consideration of an alternative site.

Mr Katkowski concluded that ‘given the chilling effect of delay on the resounding moral importance of achieving a memorial within the lifetime of survivors… the court would need to be absolutely convinced of a fundamental and irredeemable legal error before even beginning to contemplate quashing the decision to grant planning permission for this uniquely important project’.

The hearing is due to conclude on Wednesday, with the judge’s ruling expected at a later date.

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