Councillor backs Westminster memorial plans

Councillor backs Westminster memorial plans

Leading councillor supports plans for national Holocaust memorial beside Parliament as deadline for a final decision looms

Proposed design of Westminster Holocaust Memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens
Proposed design of Westminster Holocaust Memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens

A leading Westminster councillor this week publicly backed plans for a national Holocaust memorial to stand beside the Houses of Parliament, as the deadline for a final decision looms.

Cllr Paul Dimoldenberg was the only elected representative to personally support the proposed monument and museum in Victoria Tower Gardens, after Jewish News contacted nearly 30 councillors across Westminster City Council.

Dimoldenberg said: “I believe it is perfectly possible to maintain and improve the gardens for use by residents, workers and tourists and accommodate the proposed memorial and learning centre, which will take up about seven percent of the gardens.

“From what I have seen of the proposals, the gardens will be significantly improved, the children’s playground will be the same size and the new café and toilet facilities will benefit everyone.

“I understand the concerns raised by a number of residents and groups, but I am confident their concerns will not turn out to be anything like they are currently portrayed.”

Westminster City Council’s major planning applications committee, which comprises half a dozen councillors, is reportedly expected to vote in the autumn.

The memorial has received cross-party support in Parliament and the backing of the last five prime ministers and leading representatives of the Muslim, Christian and Jewish faiths.

In August, Holocaust survivor Sir Ben Helfgott threw his weight behind the memorial, writing in a letter to The Times that there is “no better location” for it than next to Parliament.

“In the UK we do not currently have a significant memorial to the Holocaust, even though it is also part of our collective national history,”
Sir Ben wrote.

Holocaust Educational Trust chief executive Karen Pollock also backed the memorial, claiming it “will enable a much wider audience
to learn about the past, Britain’s relationship with the Holocaust and its contemporary relevance today”.

But the memorial has also faced fierce criticism from heritage groups and residents, who say it is in the wrong place and will obstruct historic views.

Revised plans were submitted to the council earlier this year following objections by residents and The Royal Parks, which expressed environmental concerns.

An internal letter leaked this month suggested council officers are “heading towards” recommending the rejection of the planning

Among the memorial’s critics, Tory MP Sir Edward Leigh has tabled 125 parliamentary questions about the centre since June 2017 at an estimated cost of £20,000 for taxpayers, according to The Mirror. 

Leigh, who lives 700 yards from the site, spoke out against the project, describing it as “really just a gimmick”, the newspaper reported.

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