UK Holocaust memorial outside Parliament given green light

29 July 2021, 14:21 | Updated: 29 July 2021, 14:36

The national Holocaust memorial will be built next to the Palace of Westminster
The national Holocaust memorial will be built next to the Palace of Westminster. Picture: Adjaye Associates
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

A national Holocaust memorial will be built outside the Houses of Parliament after being given the green light by the government.

The centre was signed off by housing and planning minister Chris Pincher on a recommendation that it would provide a "powerful associative message".

His decision was welcomed by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and came following several local public inquiries last year.

The monument, which will include 23 large bronze sculptures and an underground learning centre, was initially rejected by Westminster Council and faced objections from campaign groups.

However, Mr Pincher agreed with planning inspector David Morgan that the application for the Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in Victoria Tower Gardens "should be approved".

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Construction of the Holocaust memorial is set to be complete by 2024
Construction of the Holocaust memorial is set to be complete by 2024. Picture: Adjaye Associates

The piece will mark the atrocities committed by the Nazis against the Jewish people and other minorities during the Second World War.

In a letter written by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government's, the minister said he "agrees with the inspector that the location next to the Palace of Westminster would offer a powerful associative message in itself, which is consistent with that of the memorial of its immediate and wider context".

It added: "The minister of state further agrees with the inspector's conclusion that the location of the UKHMLC adjacent to the Palace of Westminster can rightly be considered a public benefit of great importance, meriting considerable weight in the heritage and planning balance."

Although the report acknowledged there will be a "modest loss of open space and functionality within" Victoria Tower Gardens, it concluded the positives of the location outweighed the negatives. It also stated that alternative sites were unsuitable.

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One of those, the Imperial War Museum, was found by Mr Morgan to "lack a detailed scheme" and "carries clear potential constraints that may hamper its delivery".

Mr Pincher agreed that two other sites - Potter's Field adjacent to Tower Bridge, and a site next to Millbank Tower - were "even more lacking in detail and feasibility, merit still lesser weight".

Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies, said: "I am delighted that the minister of state has granted planning permission for the memorial.

"As I said to the inquiry, there will be something uniquely powerful about locating a memorial to the Holocaust right next to the centre of the UK's democracy.

"Whilst the Holocaust was a particular crime against Jewish people, the Nazis also viciously persecuted Roma, gay and disabled people, and this memorial will speak to that."

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The site will be free "in perpetuity" to visitors when it opens in 2024 and will be the focal point for national remembrance of the six million Jewish men, women and children and other victims of the Holocaust. It will also provide a place for reflection on "subsequent genocides".

Some £75 million of taxpayers' money has been spent on the memorial, with £25 million of that set to be supplemented by charitable donations.

Save Victoria Tower Gardens group, an organisation opposed to its construction next to Parliament, said it was consulting its legal team before making its next move.

It wrote on social media: "As you may have heard, today's decision has not gone in our favour.

"We are deeply disappointed, and with our lawyers are now reading the full decision and considering our next steps."

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “I am pleased that country’s first national Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre will take its rightful place in our capital, next to the heart of our democracy.

“The Holocaust marked one of the darkest chapters in human history and it is our duty to remember the atrocities committed in the Holocaust so that we can remember the victims, learn the lessons from the past and show our commitment to ensuring it never happens again.

“I’m proud to have been on the judging panel for this hugely important national memorial, which will remind each and every one of us of our duty to stand up and speak out against prejudice, oppression and injustice wherever they may be found.”