The government has been accused of trying to ‘rig’ the consultation for Adjaye Associates and Ron Arad’s controversial Holocaust Memorial after its public engagement campaign led to a spike in supportive comments
According to Big Ideas, the campaign is supporting ‘public participation’ and enabling people to give their views on the planning portal with a particular focus on groups where ‘access is a barrier to participation’.
But it has come under scrutiny from opponents of the memorial, who have accused the government of attempting to ‘rig’ the planning application by bulk posting comments.
According to Save Victoria Tower Gardens (SVTG), the number of supportive comments sent to the planning authority, Westminster Council, has grown from an average of one a day to 149 a day.
The campaigners say that the consultant, which posted 384 positive responses in one day, has overseen a ‘complete reversal in the balance of comments’.
The consultant has been collecting responses through a questionnaire which asks respondents whether they support the plans and the location, and requests permission to submit comments on their behalf.
As it stands, the application has attracted 965 objections and 2,834 messages of support.
Clare Annamalai, of the Save Victoria Tower Gardens campaign, said: ‘The increasing desperation of the government has now led it to use taxpayers’ money to create a veneer of support for this unpopular project.
‘However noble the purpose, trying to squeeze a big museum into a tiny park is never going to work.’
Adjaye and Arad’s Holocaust Memorial – which the architects recently redesigned – has proved deeply divisive, drawing heavyweight objections from Historic England, the UK branch of Icomos (the International Council on Monuments and Sites) and the Royal Parks.
But while its critics argue the small park by the Thames in Westminster is the wrong location for the project, its supporters argue that siting it next to the Houses of Parliament is symbolic.
Housing secretary James Brokenshire has claimed the memorial would act as a reminder that the ‘central role of democracy is to encourage tolerance’.
The project is also supported by UK Holocaust memorial charities the Holocaust Educational Trust and Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, while a letter of support has been sent by the rabbis of nine Westminster synagogues.
A Westminster City Council spokesperson said: ‘The council cannot express support or opposition to live planning applications.
‘We know there are strong feelings on both sides of this application and it will be considered in the same way we would any other sensitive scheme.
‘We have processes in place for handling – and giving the appropriate weight to – organised campaigns. This scheme will be considered on its merits and in line with council policy at a future planning committee.’
The Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government declined to comment. Big Ideas has also been approached for a response.