Public Outcry over proposed Holocaust Memorial

Public Outcry over proposed Holocaust Memorial

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Updated plans for a Holocaust Memorial beside Westminster Palace have been attacked by campaigners who say it will waste millions of pounds.

Critics say the Grade II*-listed Victoria Tower Gardens is the wrong location for the proposed learning centre with entrance pavilion, and courtyard.

The Government’s updated plans, which reduce the size of the structure from the original plans, have done little to appease objectors from the Save Victoria Tower Gardens Campaign, who have opposed it since 2017.

Campaigner Clare Annamalai told the BBC Local Democracy Reporting Service: “All these changes to the Government’s plans are about mitigating harm to the gardens, this small historic park, and about reducing harm to the views of Lambeth Bridge and the Buxton Memorial Fountain [also in the gardens].”

The Government revealed more than £5 million has already been spent on the project. “It will probably cost £10 million in the end. That’s all taxpayers’ money,” Ms Annamalai said.

“We’re not rejecting the proposal, it’s not anti-semitic. This is about saying you can remember the Holocaust without destroying a park.”

The new plans show the pavilion will have a “lighter, more transparent” appearance to “harmonize” with the gardens setting. A courtyard boundary fence has been made lower, so as to not disrupt views. The learning centre will be given a longer but narrower shape so that it is “set back” from the park’s trees. Its basement would also be smaller.

The government says other suggested locations, such as next to the Mayor of London’s offices or by Millbank Tower, would offer “poor visual prominence, no emotional or political logic, little or no outdoor space to provide a prominent memorial”.

Ms Annamalai suggested the memorial dedicated to the six million victims of the Naxi concentration camps could be built on “a brownfield site in central London”, though she couldn’t suggest one when asked. And the campaigners say the Imperial War Museum would be the “logical place” to put a learning centre.

In early April, communities secretary, James Brokenshire, said the memorial will have national significance, “not just for London. It’s not just for Westminster”.

“Having it located slap bang next door to the House of Commons underlines that sense of connection, the role of government and how we must not just reflect but also learn and apply the lessons of the Holocaust,” said Mr Brokenshire, whose department is behind the memorial plans.

Organisations including The Royal Parks, which oversees the 19th century Victoria Tower Gardens, as well as UNESCO and Historic England, all say the location is unsuitable.

The Royal Parks wrote to Westminster Council, which is charged with deciding on the plans, and called it a “highly sensitive location in planning and heritage terms”.

However the plans are backed by more than 150 Labour and Tory MPs who signed a joint letter to Westminster Council.

More than 900 people have submitted comments in favour and against the planning application.

The Council is expected to make a decision later this year.

By Owen Sheppard, LDRS reporter

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