A public inquiry into Adjaye Associates and Ron Arad’s proposed Holocaust Memorial next to the Palace of Westminster will now not start until October due to the coronavirus
Westminster City Council in February unanimously turned down permission for the highly contentious project within the Grade II-listed Victoria Tower Gardens.
However, three months previously the then housing minister, Esther McVey, had already announced that the government would decide the application.
A public inquiry – led by a planning inspector – was due to start later this month. This is the first stage in the process, before a report is prepared and ministers get the final decision.
However, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said the Planning Inspectorate had written to key parties postponing the start date for the UK Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre inquiry due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
They added: ‘The Inspectorate has since been working with parties to agree a suitable revised date for the inquiry opening, and have agreed it will sit for 16 days between 6 October and 13 November.’
David Cameron set the ball rolling on the scheme as prime minister in early 2014 when he launched a cross-party commission to explore options for a permanent memorial to the millions of Jewish lives lost at the hands of the Nazis during the Second World War.
Adjaye and Arad were chosen in autumn 2017 to design the memorial after a competitive process. A planning application was submitted in late 2018 but there has been fierce opposition to the project and its location.
McVey called in the scheme after the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation argued it would not be ‘appropriate or reasonable’ for the council to decide on the scheme. The foundation said the memorial project would have an impact ‘beyond the immediate locality’ and should be determined at a national level.
The Planning Inspectorate said earlier this month it was reviewing cases on a rolling basis to decide on the most appropriate action during the coronavirus lockdown.
‘In light of the latest government advice it is necessary for us to continue to avoid non-essential travel and maintain social distancing. This means that physical events, planned to take place during the lockdown period, will need to be postponed,’ said the inspectorate in a statement.
Meanwhile a public inquiry relating to Foster + Partners’ application for a 304m-tall skyscraper at 20 Bury Street – dubbed the Tulip – will not begin until November after being delayed by Covid-19.
And the organisers of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry said it will not resume until July at the earliest.
In a statement posted yesterday (19 May), the inquiry panel said it would not be making any firm prediction about when it could restart ‘limited attendance hearings’.
The inquiry added: ’The earliest the panel considers it will be possible to resume hearings is July, as it is likely to take up to a month to reorganise the inquiry’s premises in an appropriate way and to reschedule the witnesses.’
Holocaust memorial updated