Campaigners quash planning permission for Westminster Holocaust memorial
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Campaigners quash planning permission for Westminster Holocaust memorial

Judge has ruled on legal challenge against Holocaust memorial site.

Protesters outside the Royal Courts of Justice in central London ahead of a hearing regarding the UK Holocaust Memorial.  Issue date: Tuesday February 22, 2022. (Jewish News)
Protesters outside the Royal Courts of Justice in central London ahead of a hearing regarding the UK Holocaust Memorial. Issue date: Tuesday February 22, 2022. (Jewish News)

Campaigners have won a stunning High Court battle to quash planning permission for a national Holocaust memorial outside Parliament.

Mrs Justice Thornton ruled on Friday morning over legal action brought against planning permission for the park site in central London.

She concluded there was “an enduring obligation” to retain land “as a public garden and integral part of the existing Victoria Tower Gardens”, adding:  “Accordingly, the appropriate remedy is to quash the decision, so as to enable further consideration of the implications of the London County Council (Improvements) Act 1900 for the proposed scheme.”

Artist’s impression issued by the UK Holocaust Memorial showing the aerial view of the proposed Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in London. The London Historic Parks and Gardens Trust is opposed to a new UK Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre being built in Victoria Tower Gardens, a small triangular Grade II-listed park next to Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster. Issue date: Tuesday February 22, 2022.

The London Historic Parks and Gardens Trust has been opposed to a new UK Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre being built in Victoria Tower Gardens, a small triangular Grade II-listed park next to Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster.

The charity brought the High Court case against the Government, arguing that the project is the “right idea, wrong place” and that the planning permission decision-making process was flawed.

Olivia Marks-Woldman, chief executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, called the decision “deeply regrettable”. She added: “A permanent physical Holocaust Memorial for generations to come is vital. The need to remember the past and learn where identity-based history can ultimately lead is particularly acute given continuing prejudice, and situations around the world where people face atrocities and war crimes. It is, therefore, deeply regrettable that the High Court has ruled against this move as the need for a national memorial is so acute.”

Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: “This is very disappointing news. Holocaust survivors are elderly, and their numbers are dwindling – time is of the essence.  Many hope to see the opening of the Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre standing proudly next to Parliament, serving as a warning from history of what can happen when antisemitism and hate is left unchecked. This Memorial will stand as a reminder for generations to come.”

At a hearing in February, the trust, whose bid to quash the decision is opposed by ministers, focused its arguments 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.

Campaigners claimed the memorial’s proposed location risks affecting the park “irrevocably” and have previously raised concerns over the alleged impact on local trees, potential flooding, and heritage monuments.

Lawyers for the Government argued that there was “no error of law” in the decision-making process and that policy had not been “misinterpreted or misapplied”.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick (right), holocaust survivor Sir Ben Helfgott and his grandson Reuben at Victoria Gardens in Westminster, London, celebrating the go-ahead being given to a Holocaust memorial. Picture date: Thursday July 29, 2021.

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.

It came after the Government “called in” the decision in November 2019 rather than have it determined by the local authority – Westminster City Council.

The memorial, due to open in 2024, was 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”.

Co-Chairs of the APPG on the Holocaust Memorial, Bob Blackman MP and Lord Austin said: “As Co-Chairs of the APPG on the Holocaust Memorial we have long been supportive of the urgent need to build a Holocaust memorial here in Westminster.

“The is hugely important for our nation and needs to happen now. There have been enough delays, let’s move urgently on this and ensure a fitting and educational memorial is built whilst the survivors of that terrible time are here to see it.”

Ed Balls and Lord Eric Pickles after the Holocaust Memorial decision was announced by Chris Pincher MP.
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