Westminster Council voted unanimously against plans for a National Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre by the Houses of Parliament, deciding that the Victoria Tower Gardens should remain untouched.
Despite the setback, the council’s decision has no effect as the Government had already “called in” the plans to be heard by an independent inquiry. It will still inform the council’s participation in the inquiry.
All six members of the planning committee voted to agree with council officers’ recommendation to reject the plans, citing concerns abut the impact on the park’s trees. They also warned of the increased numbers to the park that would be caused by visitors to the Holocaust memorial.
Over 13,000 people have signed a CUFI petition in support of the memorial.
Lord Pickles and Ed Balls reacted saying the “regrettable” decision will not dampen their efforts to get it built.
Lord Pickles said: “The key question is the national importance of the Memorial and Learning Centre, which underlines the wisdom of calling-in the application so that the Government can properly consider its national importance.
“The nation needs this Memorial. It will stand next to Parliament as a permanent reminder that legislators always have a choice, either to protect or oppress human rights.
“I’m encouraged by the Government’s and the Official Opposition’s full commitment to the Memorial, and its location.
“The case for a National Holocaust Memorial next to Parliament is a strong one. The choice of location is in many ways the point.”
Mr Balls said: “It is now clear from all the representations that have been made over recent months, that there is deep and widespread support, in Parliament across all the political parties and more widely across the UK, for a national Holocaust Memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens.
“And while it is regrettable that Westminster City Council does not seem able to support the project, I am very confident that the compelling case for this national memorial will be recognised when the final planning decision is taken by the Minister.
“Seventy-five years on from the liberation of the Nazi death camps of Europe, it is deeply distressing that there are still people who try to diminish the gravity of what happened, or even try to deny that this systematic attempt to destroy an entire people actually took place at all.
“But in the decades to come, when survivors of the Holocaust are no longer with us to recount their experiences, the Memorial will ensure that their suffering and the terrible tragedy that they experienced, will never be forgotten.”
Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said the memorial would “tell our nation’s story and stand forever as a warning of what can happen when democracies fail” and should be “in the shadow of the greatest emblem of our democracy”.
Polish-born survivor Mala Tribich recounted surviving in a ghetto, having family members murdered and finally being liberated by British forces at Bergen Belsen.
“We have yet to learn the lessons from the Holocaust. Prejudice and discrimination still live on,” she told the meeting.
“A memorial next to Parliament… will be a lasting legacy so that future generations will understand why it’s important to learn from the Holocaust and stand up against injustice.”