Government to introduce legislation to pave way for new National Holocaust Memorial

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The planned Holocaust Memorial in London.

The Government will introduce new legislation to progress the construction of a national Holocaust memorial.

The Prime Minister announced in the House of Commons yesterday (25 January) that the Holocaust Memorial Bill will update historic legislation, removing a statutory obstacle that has previously prevented the building of a new memorial and learning centre in Victoria Tower Gardens in Westminster.

Located next to the Houses of Parliament, the memorial will serve as a powerful reminder to the whole of society of the Holocaust, its victims and where prejudice can lead if unchallenged.

The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, said:

“This important Bill brings us one step closer to delivering a national Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre at the heart of our democracy in Westminster, where it rightly belongs.

“The Memorial will honour the memory of those who were so cruelly murdered and preserve the testimonies of brave survivors so that future generations will never forget the horrors of the holocaust.

“As the remaining survivors become older and fewer in number, it is vital that we push ahead with the Memorial which is supported by all major political parties.”

Secretary of State for Levelling up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove said:

“As the Holocaust moves from living history, to history, it becomes ever more important that we take the time to remember the six million Jewish men, women and children murdered and pay tribute to the survivors.

“We are committed to building the Memorial next to Parliament, a site which reflects its national significance and is close to other important memorials including the Cenotaph.

“We owe it to Holocaust survivors, to the British people and future generations to remember where hatred can lead.”

Rt Hon Ed Balls and Rt Hon Lord Eric Pickles, Co-chairs of the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation said:

“As the generation of brave Holocaust survivors passes away, we have a duty to create this memorial to make sure that the memory and the truth of the Holocaust is preserved.

“Victoria Tower Gardens, at the heart of Westminster and alongside the great symbol and heart of our democracy, is absolutely the right place to construct the national Memorial to the Holocaust.”

Manfred Goldberg BEM, a Holocaust survivor who was held captive in Stutthof concentration camp, Poland, said:

“Several years ago survivors were promised a Holocaust Memorial in close proximity to the Houses of Parliament. I am a 92 year old survivor who would be so grateful to be alive when this project, uniquely situated next to the Mother of Parliaments, comes to fruition.”

Planning consent for the Holocaust Memorial to be built in Victoria Tower Gardens was granted in July 2021, but the decision was quashed by the High Court in April 2022 due to historic legislation that requires the garden to be maintained as a garden open to the public.

The memorial and learning centre will be free to visitors, with timed entry tickets.

Careful design means the memorial will enhance the gardens, ensuring they continue to provide an important public garden available to residents and visitors to Westminster. Paths and seating will be more attractive, accessible and landscaping improvements will enhance the local environment, maintaining public access.

Holocaust Educational Trust Chief Executive Karen Pollock said:

“As the Holocaust fades further into history, and with survivors becoming fewer and frailer, time is of the essence. Located in the heart of our democracy, the UK Holocaust Memorial will send a clear signal for years to come of the place the Holocaust should always have in our national consciousness and the importance of learning its lessons for generations to come.”

The proposal to construct a new national Memorial to the Holocaust, with an accompanying learning centre, was announced by the then Prime Minister with cross-party support in January 2015, and the decision to build the memorial at Victoria Tower Gardens was announced in January 2016.

Following an international competition, a design team of Adjaye Associates, Ron Arad Associates and Gustafson Porter + Bowman was selected. A planning application was submitted in December 2018 and planning consent was granted in July 2021, following a lengthy public inquiry.

A High Court judgment in April 2022 found that the London County Council (Improvements) Act 1900 imposed an obligation to maintain Victoria Tower Gardens as a public garden, and that this obligation was an obstacle to construction of the Holocaust Memorial at that site. Based on this conclusion, the High Court quashed the decision to grant planning consent.

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