Planning officers say proposals would harm Palace of Westminster’s setting
Westminster council planning officers have spelt out their opposition to David Adjaye’s Holocaust Memorial proposals, drawn up for Victoria Tower Gardens next to the Houses of Parliament.
Westminster’s official recommendations come in a report to a planning committee meeting next week which is tasked with formalising the authority’s stance on the controversial proposals which have been drawn up for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
In November the government announced that a public inquiry would be held into the proposals, with the ultimate decision on whether to proceed being taken by ministers. However, Westminster council’s stance will be a consideration in the process.
In their report to next week’s meeting, planning officers say that although siting a national Holocaust memorial next to the grade I-listed Palace of Westminster is supported in principle, Adjaye’s design would represent an “inappropriate form of development”.
In addition to its impact on the parliament buildings, which are part of the Westminster Unesco World Heritage Site, council officers said the loss of or damage to trees in the locality was also a cause for concern, as was the loss of space in the grade II-listed gardens.
Officers said that while the harm to the World Heritage Site – which also includes Westminster Abbey and St Margaret’s Church – was assessed as “less than substantial”, it was “considered not to be outweighed by the public benefits of the proposed development”.
Their report said that because “inadequate and conflicting information” had been submitted on the potential impact of the development on trees in Victoria Tower Gardens, it was not possible to fully assess the impact of the proposals. Councillors were given the option of considering that “substantial harm” to the setting of the World Heritage Site and wider area could result from the memorial.
Adjaye and Ron Arad won a design competition for the memorial in 2017, beating fellow shortlisters John McAslan, Foster & Partners, Studio Libeskind, Zaha Hadid Architects and Caruso St John, Allied Works, David Morley and Lahdelma & Mahlamäki Architects.
The scheme has been reworked a number of times in the intervening three years. But the international heritage body that advises Unesco on World Heritage Sites has maintained its opposition to the scheme.
Westminster said it had received thousands of consultation responses on the proposals.
“Many supporters are in favour of the proposal to build the Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre beside parliament as they feel it will give the memorial prominence,” a report to next week’s meeting said.
“While many objectors agree that there is a need for Holocaust remembrance and education, a primary concern is that Victoria Tower Gardens is the wrong site for a development of the size and form proposed, and the proposals will change forever and harmfully the use of a much-used and cherished public park.”
Officers said the council was fully supportive of MHCLG’s aims to advance Holocaust remembrance and education, but could not support the impact on the World Heritage Site and surrounding conservation areas.
Dates have yet to be set for the inquiry.