A planning decision on the proposed new Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre next to Parliament has been taken out of Westminster Council’s hands by the Minister for Housing Esther McVey MP.
The decision was made on Wednesday, shortly after Parliament dissolved ahead of a general election in December.
Lord Pickles, who co-chairs the new memorial foundation, tweeted that he was “delighted that [McVey] has ‘called in’ the planning application,” adding that both he and co-chair Ed Balls “agree… that the decision should be taken nationally”.
The pair had earlier argued that “the level of national interest suggests to us that it would not be appropriate or reasonable to expect the local authority to determine this planning application”.
Their argument was made just weeks after it was revealed that Westminster Council officers were “heading towards” recommending that the planning application in the Grade-II listed park be rejected, after a Freedom of Information request revealed fraught correspondence.
Jewish leaders say the memorial at Victoria Tower Gardens is “vital” and that Westminster Council’s rejection of the planning application at a time of rising antisemitism “would send entirely the wrong signal to society,” but Baroness Ruth Deech, a Jewish peer opposed to the memorial, said this was “ridiculous”.
After this week’s decision, the government will now decide on the fate of the planned memorial being designed by architects David Adjaye and Ron Arad after agreeing to ‘call in’ the planning application.
Critics of the memorial argue that the Government’s strong support for the controversial project means it is now applicant, arbiter and judge.
A Westminster City Council spokesman said: “We note the Government has called in the planning application for the proposed UK Holocaust Memorial for a local inquiry. We’ve been clear to date that we would consider the scheme on its merits and in line with our planning policy. We await further information from the Planning Inspectorate on the proposed call in process and will play our part as necessary.”
Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, Karen Pollock, commented: “A national memorial and learning centre located right next to Parliament, the heart of our democracy, sends a clear signal for generations to come of the important place the Holocaust has in our nation’s history and memory. Given its significance, and importance now more than ever, it is right that this application will be decided nationally.”
NEWS NEWS NEWS@edballs and I are delighted that Minister of Housing @EstherMcVey1 has “called in” the planning application for a Memorial and Learning Centre
We agree with both the Leader and CE of Westminster Council that the decision should be taken nationally @UKHMF @mhclg pic.twitter.com/nbfWhFwTS9
— Lord (Eric) Pickles (@EricPickles) November 5, 2019