Plans to build a multi-million pound Holocaust memorial next to Parliament would create a ‘trophy site’ for terrorists, a public inquiry has been warned.
The Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre has been planned for Victoria Tower Gardens on Millbank, as a tribute to the victims of the Second World War atrocity.
But Lord Carlile, the former independent reviewer of anti-terror laws, has told a planning inquiry that the memorial would be a ‘self-evident terrorism risk’.
In February, Westminster City Council voted unanimously to reject the plans saying the tribute could ‘harm’ the historic area, but the Government will make the final decision.
The design of the memorial had previously been compared to a ‘split-apart ribcage’ and a ‘silly hill’ that would take up too much of one of Westminster’s few green spaces.
Plans to build a multi-million pound Holocaust memorial next to Parliament would create a ‘trophy site’ for terrorists, a public inquiry has been warned. Pictured: Artist’s impression of Holocaust Memorial
Lord Carlile, the former independent reviewer of anti-terror laws, has told a planning inquiry that the landmark (pictured: an artist’s impression) would be a ‘self-evident terrorism risk’
Lord Carlile told the inquiry: ‘From my extensive experience of observing, analysing and discussing terrorism issues with front-line practitioners, I have absolutely no doubt that the proposed site raises a clear – indeed self-evident – terrorism risk.
‘I give this warning with regret, but with total conviction. This would be a threat to the public, and also a potential threat to Parliament.’
He told the BBC that he had a ‘strong interest’ in the issue, adding: ‘Many of my close relatives were exterminated in the Holocaust.’
‘I am absolutely determined that this should be remembered properly. I just feel that this isn’t the right place for it,’ Lord Carlile added.
‘I know – indeed I believe everybody knows – that the Houses of Parliament are an iconic target for terrorists. This site is cheek by jowl with the Houses of Parliament.
The artists plans of the site show broad lawns, with the majority of the memorial underground
Experts said in February that while the idea was sound in principle, it would be harmful to the park and interrupt views
‘This site would also be, potentially, a target for right-wing extremists. It seems to be foolish for these two iconic places to be on the same broad site.’
Victoria Tower Gardens is a Grade II-listed park and forms a small triangular green space next to Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament – collectively designated as a World Heritage Site.
The £50million Holocaust memorial’s design features 23 large bronze fin structures for visitors to walk among, leading to an underground learning centre.
At a service in London on Holocaust Memorial Day in January, Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised that a national Holocaust memorial and education centre will be built.
His comments came within a year of an announcement by then-prime minister Theresa May backing the Victoria Tower Gardens plans, which followed David Cameron’s 2015 pledge to have a Holocaust memorial in central London.
In February, a planning committee voted unanimously to reject allowing the UK Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre to be built in Victoria Tower Gardens, saying it contravenes planning rules on size, design and location.
Lord Carlile (pictured) said he had a ‘strong interest’ in the issue, adding: ‘Many of my close relatives were exterminated in the Holocaust’
Parliamentarians had said there is ‘no better location’ for the memorial (artists impression above)
One Labour councillor said the council had been left in an ‘awful position’ by a Government pledge five years ago to build a memorial in London, without consultation.
David Boothroyd said: ‘That left us in this iniquitous position where we are now having to decide whether to disappoint people who are making points about their local park with perfect sincerity, or to refuse the Holocaust Memorial Centre within a fortnight of Holocaust Memorial Day.
‘It is an awful position for us to be in.’
In a statement, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said: ‘The Government remains implacably committed to the construction of the Holocaust Memorial and Education Centre right at the heart of our democracy, beside our national parliament to ensure that future generations never forget.
‘No one, whether in national or local government should shirk their duty to deliver on the promise of this memorial, and the Government certainly will not.’
Objections to the proposal came from a range of groups including Historic England, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and Royal Parks, the meeting heard.
Jewish architect Barbara Weiss, previously told The Times: ‘To me it looks like a ripped-apart ribcage from one side, and from the other, it’s just a silly hill that splits the park in two.’
However, a Holocaust survivor said building a memorial beside the Palace of Westminster ‘where decisions are made’ would help leave a lasting legacy for future generations.
Mala Tribich said: ‘A memorial now next to Parliament where decisions are made will help us to learn the lessons that we have not done so far.
‘As the Holocaust recedes into history and we survivors become less able to share our testimonies this memorial and learning centre will be a lasting legacy so that future generations will understand why it is important for people to remember the Holocaust, to learn from the past and stand up against injustice.’
The Communities Secretary will make a final decision on the proposal following the public inquiry.