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Khan leans on Westminster Council to approve Holocaust Memorial

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The Mayor has called on Westminster City Council to approve the memorial, prompting opponents of the scheme to accuse him of ’interfering’ in a democratic process

Sadiq Khan fears plans for Adjaye Associates and Ron Arad’s scheme may be rejected following objections about its impact on views at Victoria Tower Gardens. 

Khan, who was a member of the jury for the design competition for the government project, has written to Westminster council leader Nickie Aiken to ask the council to approve the ‘hugely important’ memorial.

Objectors including the Save Victoria Tower Gardens (SVTG) campaign group say building in the park on the edge of a World Heritage Site setting with protected views is the wrong choice.

Architect Barbara Weiss, co-founder of SVTG, said it was an ‘absolute disgrace’ that Khan has written to the council about the application. 

She said: ‘It’s interfering with the [planning] process, which is a democratic process. If you imagine this being a court case, you can’t have people from above telling you how to make a judgement.’ 

Khan’s intervention comes a week after documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation co-chairs Ed Balls and Lord Pickles expressed misgivings about the planning process in a strongly-worded letter to Aiken.

Writing following a meeting between representatives of the applicants and council planning officers, they claimed that ‘officers presented as giving excessive weight to the number of objections lodged on the planning portal’.

In her response in May, Aiken stressed that the proposal would be ‘dealt with in a wholly professional and robust manner’. 

She revealed that, due to a range of issues with the proposal raised in that meeting, ‘it was advised that the application was heading towards an unfavourable recommendation’.

Khan spoke out in March over his concerns that the scheme would be rejected. Now, in a letter to Aiken, he has said that the National Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre would be a ’fitting tribute to the victims of the Holocaust’.

It will show our commitment to fighting extremism and intolerance 

He said: ’It will show our commitment to fighting extremism and intolerance in all forms and make a powerful national statement about our democracy and its values, reminding us what can happen when hatred is left unchecked.

‘I have previously expressed my fear, however, that these plans would be rejected and I share concerns raised by the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation Advisory Board. Westminster City Council must follow the proper consultation process for this planning application and show transparency by fully explaining its decision when reached.’

Khan added in his letter that the location for the memorial was ’agreed’ by the council, the Royal Parks and the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation after an ’extensive search’ of locations in London.

Yet the Royal Parks objected to the planning application, saying Victoria Tower Gardens was ’not an appropriate location for the proposed structure’.

A spokeswoman for the Royal Parks said: ’The Royal Parks has not changed its views. The charity made its views known on the planning proposal in its submission to Westminster Council.’

Khan said a memorial was needed ‘now more than ever’ due to the increase in the ’scourge of anti-Semitism and hate crime’. He added: ‘I therefore urge Westminster City Council not to reject these plans and instead enable this hugely important national memorial to take its rightful place in the heart of the capital and close to the seat of national government.’

A Westminster council spokesperson said: ‘The City Council has made it very clear that the decision regarding this application, like all that come before the authority, will be made on planning grounds after careful assessment of all the representations received. No decision has been taken.

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Readers' comments (2)

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  • Khan shouldn't push the moral (and, doubtless, political) justification for a memorial and learning centre on such an inappropriate site - far better if he concentrates his efforts on identifying the right location.

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