Worries grow around location of site amid current Middle East tension
Conservative MPs and councillors have renewed their calls for the government’s plans for a Holocaust memorial to be moved from the currently proposed site next to the Houses of Parliament.
The location of the Adjaye Associates-designed memorial has long been controversial among locals and Westminster councillors due to the loss of part of Victoria Tower Gardens.
It has also led to concerns over the need for taxpayer-funded security to protect the highly sensitive site amid rising tensions in the Middle East.
The government pledged in last November’s Queen speech that it would press ahead with the plans with a Holocaust Memorial Bill in the next session of Parliament.
Nickie Aiken, Conservative MP for Cities of London and Westminster, told a parliamentary committee hearing that she thought it was “very important” that the bill is not passed.
“Now we are seeing issues in the Middle East which are having a serious knock on effect on this country. Westminster is obviously the heart of government and we do see ongoing protests.
“I think we have to understand who is going to cover the costs of security, that it’s going to have to be 24/7, how much is that cost going to be and ask whether it is appropriate to ask the taxpayer to pay that.”
Westminster has been at the centre of recent protests about the ongoing conflict in Gaza.
Aiken, who was the leader of Westminster council between 2017 and 2020 and a board member for The Royal Parks during that time, said she was “incredulous” that there appeared to be no clear understanding among MPs around the future costs of the project.
She also said the impact of the memorial on the grade II-listed park would result in a “great loss” to families in south Westminster, where there is a scarcity of green space.
“I think it’s important to ensure we protect our parks and public spaces particularly in spaces like central London where there are huge pockets of deprivation.”
Both Aiken and Louise Hyams, Westminster councillor for St James’s Ward, which includes Victoria Tower Gardens, backed earlier plans to locate the memorial in the park which surrounds the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth.
Hyams said the government had “dug their heels in” and refused to listen to the concerns of locals, Westminster council and The Royal Parks over the impact of the scheme, which she argued could have been completed by now if it had been built elsewhere.
“Had the memorial trust listened to the objections to using this park and chosen the preferred location in the Imperial War Museum we would have had a memorial built now so that the last survivors would have had a chance to see the memorial,” Hyams said.
Planning permission was granted in July 2021 to build the scheme in Victoria Tower Gardens after a public inquiry and recommendations made by planning inspector David Morgan.
It was later challenged in the High Court by the London Historic Parks and Gardens Trust, which argued against building the centre in the park.
The London County Council (Improvements) Act 1900 required the land to be used as a public park, a legal obstacle which the bill intends to remove.
The bill would also give the government powers to use public funding to build and operate the centre.