Tory former prime minister David Cameron has strongly defended proposals to site a Holocaust memorial near Parliament after complaints that it was the wrong location for the project.
The comments came after controversy was provoked by plans to erect a Holocaust memorial and learning centre in Victoria Tower Gardens, a small, triangular, Grade II listed park next to Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament.
In February this year, Westminster City Council’s planning committee voted unanimously to reject allowing the memorial to be built at the park, saying it contravenes planning rules on size, design and location.
But, three months earlier in November, the Government “called in” the decision on the proposal, meaning it would decide whether the project should go ahead, rather than being determined by the council.
Giving evidence to a public inquiry into the matter on Tuesday, Mr Cameron said he had set up the memorial project while in power “to remember the past and to make sure we safeguard the future”.
Mr Cameron said the site next to Parliament was “symbolically” important.
He said: “I would say it is not just functionally important that the memorial and learning centre are in this location, but I think it is also symbolically important.
“The location next to our Parliament, which is such a symbol of our nationhood, makes a statement that is a permanent affirmation of the values of our society, about tolerance and diversity.”
Mr Cameron stressed the initiative was a cross-party political effort, backed by every living prime minister and the leader of the opposition, Sir Keir Starmer.
The ex-prime minister insisted it was essential to keep the learning centre in the same location as the memorial in order to combat Holocaust denial.
The memorial’s design features 23 large bronze fin structures that visitors can walk among, leading to the underground learning centre.
It will be dedicated to the six million Jewish men, women and children and other victims murdered by the Nazis.
Architects working on the project, led by Sir David Adjaye, have said they were aiming to ensure 90% of the original park is retained.
The final decision on the matter is to be made by Christopher Pincher, housing minister at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
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