National Holocaust memorial given the green light to be built next to Parliament

The National Holocaust memorial centre is scheduled to open in 2024

Charlene Rodrigues
Thursday 29 July 2021 15:30
<p>MP Robert Jenrick with holocaust survivors outside Houses of Parliament in Westminster on July 29. </p>

MP Robert Jenrick with holocaust survivors outside Houses of Parliament in Westminster on July 29.

The housing and planning minister has approved a proposal to build a national Holocaust Memorial centre next to UK houses of Parliament in Westminster as the location would be ideal to present a "powerful associative message."

The Board of Deputies of British Jews welcomed the decision by Chris Pincher, following local public inquiries in October and November when the idea was floated for central consideration.

The proposal to build the Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in Victoria Tower Gardens - which will mark the atrocities committed by the Nazis against the Jewish people and other minorities during the Second World War - faced objections from campaign groups.

"We are concerned that this plan will change forever the use of a much loved and well-used local park into a sombre, security patrolled civic space," said Save Victoria Tower Gardens campaign group.

While the group acknowledges the need for Holocaust education, they suggested other venues like the Imperial War Museum would be more appropriate.

David Morgan, planning inspector with whom Mr Pincher agreed that the "application should be approved," found the Imperial War Museum "lacks a detailed scheme" and "carries clear potential constraints that may hamper its delivery".

Other sites such as the Potter's Field adjacent to Tower Bridge and a site next to Millbank Tower, were also considered.

Still, Mr Morgan found them unsuitable, and Mr Pincher agreed that they were "even more lacking in detail and feasibility, merit still lesser weight."

The housing minister also said the memorial's location adjacent to the Palace of Westminster could rightly be considered a public benefit of great importance and heritage value.

The report accepted that there would be a "modest loss of open space and functionality within" Victoria Tower Gardens but found the positives of the location outweighed the negatives in building the memorial there.

The campaign group said Victoria Tower Gardens is a park; it's not an appropriate site for a Holocaust education centre.

Delighted with the go ahead for the memorial, Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies, said "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."

The government has already committed that the Holocaust memorial will be accessible "in perpetuity" to visitors when it opens, and will be just as significant like other museums and monuments.

The memorial centre is scheduled to open in 2024. It is intended to be a focal point to commemorate the murder of six million Jewish men, women and children, and other victims by the Nazis.

The government has already allocated £75 million of public money towards construction costs. A further £25 million will be raised from charitable donations.

The campaign group, opposing the plan, said it was consulting with lawyers before making its next move.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick received death threats after showing overwhelming support for the memorial.

Jenrick said on Thursday that he believed the memorial would “educate and inform future generations about the horrors of the Holocaust”

The Save Victoria Tower Gardens group, in a post on social media, said, "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."

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