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Rishi Sunak promises legislation to build new Holocaust memorial centre

(Victoria Jones/PA)
(Victoria Jones/PA)

A new law will allow a Holocaust memorial centre to be built next to Parliament, Rishi Sunak has told MPs.

The Prime Minister said the Government would take action after campaigners won a legal battle to quash planning permission for the national memorial in Westminster.

The plan to build the centre in Victoria Tower Gardens ran into difficulties over a 1900 law protecting the park land.

But Mr Sunak told MPs the Government will legislate to ensure the Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre is built next to Parliament.

Planning permission was granted in July 2021 after a public inquiry and the recommendations of planning inspector David Morgan.

But it was challenged in the High Court by the London Historic Parks and Gardens Trust, which argued against building the centre on the small triangular Grade II-listed park to the south of Parliament.

The London County Council (Improvements) Act 1900 required the land to be used as a public park.

Ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day on Friday, Mr Sunak paid tribute at Prime Minister’s Questions to the “extraordinary courage” of survivors, including 94-year-old Arek Hersh, who was watching proceedings in the Commons.

“This will legislate to build the Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre next to Parliament so the testimonies of survivors like Arek will be heard at the heart of our democracy by every generation to come.”

The Holocaust Memorial Bill will update the historic legislation, removing the legal obstacle that has prevented the Victoria Tower Gardens project.

UK Holocaust Memorial
Artist’s impression of the proposed Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre (UK Holocaust Memorial/PA)

Officials said that careful design will mean the centre – which will be free to visitors – enhances the gardens.

Communities Secretary Michael Gove said: “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.”

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 London Historic Parks and Gardens Trust is now known as London Parks and Gardens (LPG).

A LPG spokesman said: “It is crucial that the appalling events of the Holocaust must be understood by future generations, and we join with Parliament in observing Holocaust Memorial Day. 

“Our legal challenge never sought to question the need for a fitting Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre, but simply to protect the laws which stop public parks from being built on. 

“It is right that Parliament will decide the best place to fulfil the noble aim of a national memorial.

“We respectfully urge parliamentarians to fulfil their generational responsibility to ensure Holocaust education in a way which also protects parks as places for everyone to reflect, relax and play.”