Council says government-backed scheme is too big for Victoria Tower Gardens

Westminster councillors have voted to oppose David Adjaye’s National Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre, earmarked for Victoria Tower Gardens – next to the Palace of Westminster.

The controversial scheme has been reworked several times in a bid to minimise its impact on the gardens and the wider Westminster Unesco World Heritage Site.

In November, decision-making powers on the project were taken away from the city council when the project was “called in” for ministerial approval.

At a planning committee on Tuesday night, councillors formally agreed to oppose the scheme at a public inquiry that will inform the government’s decision on whether to proceed with it.

They were following advice from city council planning officers who said the proposals would harm the World Heritage Site – which also includes Westminster Abbey and St Margaret’s Church – in a way that was “considered not to be outweighed by the public benefits”.

Councillors agreed that the memorial and learning centre contravened planning rules on size, design and location but they put on record their support for the principle of a memorial and learning centre in central London.

Planning committee chair Robert Rigby said “We absolutely understand the emotion and the depth of feeling that this issue engenders and we think it is right that the secretary of state will make the final decision on this application.

“However, if it were Westminster city council taking a decision on the application, it would have been refused on heritage grounds.”

He added: “We would have very likely accepted a proposal of much smaller scale in that park.”

Adjaye and Ron Arad won a design competition for the memorial in 2017, beating a number of high-profile rivals including Foster + Partners, Studio Libeskind and Zaha Hadid Architects.


How the planned scheme could look