Plans for a National Holocaust Memorial and educational learning centre could be rejected by Westminster Council according to an internal document.
Westminster Council officers were revealed to be “heading towards” recommending that the planning application for the memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens be rejected, according correspondence released last week under a Freedom of Information request by Jewish News.
Councillor Nickie Aiken made a strongly worded letter to UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation co-chairs Ed Balls and Lord Pickles after the former MPs had written to Aiken following a meeting between representatives of the applicants and council planning officers. In this letter they claimed that ‘officers presented as giving excessive weight to the number of objections lodged on the planning portal’.
Aiken said that the planning case officer and agent for the applicants had discussed concerns in relation to how the proposal compares with local planning policy, including design, land use, trees and highways, and that ‘a significant number of objections from residents and statutory consultees had been received’.
She added: ‘As such, given this range of issues, it was advised that the application was heading towards an unfavourable recommendation. It is difficult to see how your advisers were able to give you the impression that it was the number of objections [that] was the primary concern, given the breadth of the other matters discussed.’
In a statement, the president of the Board of British Jews called the memorial at Victoria Tower Gardens “vital” and said Westminster Council’s rejection of the planning application at a time of rising antisemitism “would send entirely the wrong signal to society,”
Reacting to concerns of the rejection, London Mayor Sadiq Khan has this week urged Westminster Council to adopt plans to build the Holocaust memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens.
In a letter to the council, Khan said the memorial and museum in Victoria Tower Gardens would “make a powerful national statement” amid rising antisemitism and hate crime.
“I have previously expressed my fear however that these plans would be rejected,” Khan wrote. “I therefore urge Westminster City Council not to reject these plans and instead enable this hugely important national Memorial to take its rightful place in the heart of the capital and close to the seat of national government.”
A Holocaust memorial outside Parliament is the RIGHT thing at the RIGHT time
Christians United for Israel UK has launched a petition in support of the National Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in Victoria Tower Gardens, Westminster, which is currently being strongly opposed.
We live in a time of rising anti-Semitism in Britain with an increasing number of people who have never heard about the Holocaust. We must educate future generations and preserve the lessons of history.
Britain played an important role in bringing about an end to the Holocaust, the worst genocide in history. Therefore, it is right for our nation to have a permanent memorial to the Holocaust and learning centre in the heart of our capital.
Unbelievably, there is now some opposition to this worthy cause. Thousands have signed a petition against this memorial, which is why we launched our petition to show support.
Join more than 9,500 people who have signed our petition to support the national Holocaust Memorial in Westminster
Sadly, many who oppose are being misled into believing this memorial will destroy a green space in London. This is simply wrong!
The memorial uses just 7% of the park with the education centre being underground.
The large green space will still be available for the public and the trees that line the park will remain untouched. Tourists will even have BETTER views of Parliament because of an elevated grassy area on top of the memorial.
The UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation states: “The proposals have been developed with great sensitivity to the existing context and character of the Gardens – we will retain 93 per cent of the open public space, improve views over Parliament and the river Thames and provide a range of accessible seating and a new boardwalk along the embankment.”
The questions to those who oppose this construction on an environmental level are:
Is 7% of Victoria Tower Gardens worth more than honouring the 6 million Jews who were brutally murdered during the Holocaust?
Is preserving a small part of a green space worth more than educating future generations against the hatred of anti-Semitism?
Shamefully, some of the opposition to this memorial appears to be far more sinister.
Whilst many genuinely oppose the construction without any discriminatory motives, CUFI has seen evidence of anti-Semitism from some opponents.
This includes conspiracy theories about Jews trying to claim the site and impose their will on the government, which is completely false. Others oppose the monument because of “politics” or even “Palestine”, which should not even be a factor. One conspiracy seen by CUFI claimed the memorial was to spread “Zionist propaganda”. Some of the wording chosen to oppose the memorial also raises questions.
It is not political to honour the memory of those murdered in the Holocaust. It is the right thing to do. And this memorial will honour their memory and teach future generations.
The truth is that six million Jews were murdered at the hands of Hitler’s Nazi regime throughout Europe and hundreds of thousands of British and Commonwealth soldiers also lost their lives fighting against that same hatred.
The position of the memorial is also important. Parliament was the stage for British leaders to proclaim their opposition to Nazi Germany and rally the nation against this hatred.
For example, in the House of Lords, Archbishop William Temple spoke of the “massacres and starvation” of the Jews by the Nazis. He gave a powerful speech saying, “We at this moment have upon us a tremendous responsibility. We stand at the bar of history, of humanity and of God.”
We once again have a tremendous responsibility to stand against anti-Semitism.
Today, few people remain who remember those darkest days in history and there are signs that our nation is forgetting the horrors of the past, which is why we must support initiatives like this.
Recent reports show a growing number of people in this country, especially the younger generation, who know “nothing” or “very little” about the Holocaust. And 64% of the country does not know the number of people killed in the Holocaust.
On top of this, 5% of the country don’t believe the Holocaust happened at all, with a further 8% thinking it is exaggerated. We have to educate people with the truth!
Anti-Semitism in Britain has increased in recent years with 2018 having the highest number of anti-Semitic attacks on Jews in this country than ever before. And with recent problems of anti-Semitism within the Labour Party, Parliament itself has a huge responsibility to lead by example in confronting anti-Semitism.
This memorial is an important tool to educate future generations against the horrors of the Holocaust.
Thankfully, the memorial is supported by many.
Plans for the memorial were first announced by former Prime Minister David Cameron in 2016. It has the backing of every major Jewish organisation in the UK and over 170 politicians from across political parties support the plans.
The government’s Holocaust Memorial Foundation, which is spearheading this development states: “Situated next to Parliament, the Memorial will stand as a permanent reminder of the responsibilities of citizens in a democracy to be vigilant and responsive whenever our values are threatened.”
Their Mission Statement vows that “the national Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre will reaffirm Britain’s commitment to stand up against antisemitism, prejudice and hatred in all its forms.”
The vast majority of people in the UK see the importance of Holocaust education with 86% of those polled said it was important to teach Holocaust in schools and 76% said more should be done to educate people. This memorial and education centre does just that!
This is why we support the construction of the national Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in Victoria Tower Gardens, Westminster.
By signing this petition you are giving your support for this vital project and standing against anti-Semitism in Britain.