BY JESSIE MATHEWSON
Local Democracy Reporter
Sadiq Khan has called on Westminster council to approve plans for a Holocaust memorial to sit next to the Houses of Parliament.
The Mayor of London said Victoria Tower Gardens, the park beside Britain’s seat of government, was the right place to commemorate the horrors of the Holocaust.
But local campaigners oppose the use of green space, and say the small park would be dominated by the building, which has been designed by British architect David Adjaye.
More than 12,000 people have signed a petition opposing the memorial.
The designs – already amended to reduce the impact on Victoria Tower Gardens’ protected views of Parliament – have been submitted as a planning application to the town hall.
But earlier this month, a letter from council leader Nickie Aiken to the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation, revealed by campaigners under Freedom of Information law, suggested that the application “was heading towards an unfavourable recommendation”.
The Mayor has now urged Westminster council not to reject the plans, and to allow the memorial “to take its rightful place in the heart of the capital” close to the Houses of Parliament.
He said: “As we see the scourge of anti-Semitism and hate crime increasing across our country, now more than ever we need a National Holocaust Memorial, so we can learn the lessons from history, as well as pay tribute to the victims of the Nazi genocide.
“It will show our commitment to fighting extremism and intolerance in all forms and make a powerful national statement about our democracy and its values, reminding us what can happen when hatred is left unchecked.”
But Clare Annamalai, a spokeswoman for Save Victoria Tower Gardens, said the Mayor’s intervention was inappropriate” and “politically motivated”.
She said: “The Mayor’s office has already had its say at an earlier stage in the process, and they’ve made it clear that for them symbolism trumps everything.
“This intervention is for political purposes, not planning reasons.”
Ms Annamalai said there was a strong local community using the park, and that the behaviour in such a space – children playing, walking dogs, and picnics – would not be appropriate around a Holocaust memorial.
She said: “We have no problem at all with idea of a memorial and learning centre – in fact we support those things.
“The main problem is the location.
“You don’t build in green spaces if you can properly avoid it – and this is not just any green space, it’s a historic space with protected views. The park is going to be totally dominated by this structure.”
A spokesman for Westminster City council said: “The city council has made it
very clear that the decision regarding this application, like all that come before
the authority, will be made on planning grounds after careful assessment of all the representations received. No decision has been taken.”