Proposed Holocaust Memorial, London
Proposed Holocaust Memorial, London
Proposed location in Victoria Tower Gardens
Proposed location in Victoria Tower Gardens

The UK Holocaust Memorial was a proposed memorial and learning centre[1] to preserve the testimony of British Holocaust survivors and concentration camp liberators and to honour the Jewish victims of the Holocaust and other victims of Nazi persecution, including Roma, homosexual, and disabled people.

The government originally planned to build it in Victoria Tower Gardens, a Royal Park next to the Houses of Parliament. This proposal was highly contentious because of the popularity and nature of the location and because the memorial would have taken around a quarter of the green space in the park.[2][3]

In July 2021 it was announced, following a public inquiry, that planning permission was granted for the Holocaust Memorial in this location. In November 2021 a High Court judge granted permission for a planning statutory review of the decision to grant planning permission.[4]

In April 2022 the High Court quashed the planning permission relating to Victoria Tower Gardens. Permission to appeal was refused.[5][6]

Holocaust Commission

UK Holocaust Memorial
LocationLondon, United Kingdom Edit this at Wikidata
Coordinates51°29′45″N 0°07′29″W / 51.49586°N 0.12481°W / 51.49586; -0.12481Coordinates: 51°29′45″N 0°07′29″W / 51.49586°N 0.12481°W / 51.49586; -0.12481
Typememorial Edit this on Wikidata
UK Holocaust Memorial is located in City of Westminster
UK Holocaust Memorial
Location of UK Holocaust Memorial
UK Holocaust Memorial is located in Greater London
UK Holocaust Memorial
UK Holocaust Memorial (Greater London)

In January 2014 UK Prime Minister David Cameron tasked a Holocaust Commission with establishing what more Britain could do to preserve the memory of the Holocaust and ensure that the lessons it teaches are never forgotten. The Commission ran a national call for evidence. There were nearly 2,500 responses. This included one of Britain's largest ever gatherings of Holocaust survivors at Wembley Stadium. The Holocaust Commission report was produced in 2015. It concluded:

  1. There is widespread dissatisfaction with the current national memorial in Hyde Park
  2. Effective Holocaust education fails to reach significant numbers of young people
  3. There is inadequate support for regional projects compounded by a lack of long-term funding for Holocaust education
  4. The testimony of survivors and liberators needs to be urgently recorded and appropriately preserved

and recommended:

  1. A striking and prominent new National Memorial
  2. A World-Class Learning Centre at the heart of a campus driving a network of national educational activity
  3. An endowment fund to secure the long-term future of Holocaust Education including the new Learning Centre and projects across the country
  4. An urgent programme to record and preserve the testimony of British Holocaust survivors and liberators

Memorial and Learning Centre

The learning centre is to be a facility giving visitors engaging experiences to learn about the Holocaust and subsequent genocides through a variety of mediums including historic photographs, film footage and audio recordings. Government support will supplement funds raised from visitor donations and other charitable contributions to cover the running costs of the Memorial and Learning Centre which, subject to planning permission, is expected to open in 2024.[7]

On January 28, 2021, the Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick announced the government will provide free entry, in perpetuity, to everyone visiting the proposed centre.[7] "Giving universal free access to the memorial puts the UK on the same footing as the most important monuments and museums and will reassure Holocaust survivors their testimony will be freely available to all when they are no longer able to tell the story themselves, forever," Jenrick said.[7]

UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation

The UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation (UKHMF) [1] was formed to oversee the project.

The British government allocated £50 million (later increased to £75 million[8]), to be supplemented by £25 million from charitable donations, to the UKHMF to support the construction of the memorial. Additional funding is being sought for the construction of the learning centre.[1]

In September 2015 the UKHMF issued specifications for the Memorial and for the education and learning centre. In 2016 the UKHMF undertook a search of over fifty locations and, in July 2016, it was announced that Victoria Tower Gardens had been chosen for both the memorial and underground learning centre.[9]

Holocaust Memorial Charitable Trust

The Holocaust Memorial Charitable Trust was registered as a charity by the Charity Commission on 30 January 2019 (Registered Charity Number: 1181806). The Charity was established to support the building and subsequent operation of the UK Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre. The Charity is not intended to own or operate the Holocaust Memorial but to support it and associated activities by way of grant-funding. The charity also runs a Memorial web site.

Architectural competition

An international competition was held for the design of the UK Holocaust Centre. In October 2017, it was announced that the competition was won by a team led by the British-Ghanaian architect David Adjaye (through Adjaye Associates), with Ron Arad Architects as Memorial Architect, and Gustafson Porter + Bowman as landscape architect.[1] The design combines a memorial sculpture with an underground learning centre[10] that will help to educate visitors about prejudice and discrimination. The Memorial consists of 23 bronze fins, with the gaps between the fins representing the 22 countries where the Holocaust destroyed Jewish communities, and acting as separate paths down to a hall named the 'Threshold' leading into the Learning Centre, along with a "contemplation court" and "hall of testimonies".[1] A public consultation on the latest designs was held on 4–8 September 2018. Opponents to the construction of the memorial claim the design is linked to the Adjaye Associates' rejected Ottawa Holocaust Memorial application.[11]

The lead architect of the project, David Adjaye, sparked rebuke from opponents by arguing that ‘disrupting’ the pleasure of being in a park is key to its thinking.[12] David Aaronovich of the Times[13] and the Observer's architecture critic Rowan Moore[3] have discussed arguments against the park. The ensuing flurry of media attention brought to light some of the critical consultation submissions, such as that from Historic England. Furthermore, co-signed letters from politicians for and against the park have been published in the press. Notably, a group of Jewish members of the House of Lords co-signed a letter stating that the memorial 'evokes neither Holocaust nor Jewish history'.[14] The latest letter was from 174 politicians who co-signed a statement in support of building the scheme.[15] Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, has also voiced his concerns about the growing opposition.[16]

Redesign and response

Following the consultation exercise by Westminster Council, it was announced on 29 April 2019 that a revised design would be submitted in response to the level of criticism of the location and design by the general public, residents of Westminster Council, the media and authoritative bodies such as Royal Parks and Historic England. Barbara Weiss of the SVTG campaign blamed the cost, delay and disruption of a redesign on an initial lack of consultation.[17]

The new design was re-imagined with the criticisms in mind. The new plans increased the loss of green space due to an increase in the width of the memorial courtyard to accommodate planting adjacent to the fence, as stated in the environmental statement addendum.[18] It was submitted to the council on 29 April 2019.[19]

The resubmitted design was covered in specialist architecture and building press.[20] Pro and anti sides were cited. Royal Parks said: "From the evidence available it is not clear that the revised designs will significantly reduce the impact that the proposed structure will have on this much-loved public amenity space, in an area of central London with few public parks, which is significant."[19] The designs were submitted under the existing planning application. The consultation continued thereafter. Published documents also indicate that the redesign did not satisfy concerns of the Environmental Agency that adequate preparations were made to prevent a flood risk during building and thereafter.[18]

A letter exchange between Westminster City Council and the UKHMF in August 2019 showed that the memorial 'was heading towards an unfavourable recommendation’ by planners.[21] The exchange was widely covered by UK media. The UKHMF claimed that ‘officers presented as giving excessive weight to the number of objections lodged on the planning portal’. The council disputed their ‘irresponsible and frankly offensive assertions’ about the operation of the council's planning service.[21]

"Calling in" the planning decision

Following a request by Lord Pickles and Ed Balls, the co-chairs of the UKHMF, to Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Esther McVay, the Minister for State for Housing, "called in" the application on 6 November 2019. A spokesman said, "A public inquiry will be held and overseen by an independent planning inspector. The Minister will make the final decision on the application taking into account the inspector’s recommendation."[22]

A spokesman for Westminster Council said, following the calling in, "We’ve been clear to date that we would consider the scheme on its merits and in line with our planning policy." In February 2020, Westminster City Council's planning committee voted unanimously to reject the planning application, saying it contravenes planning rules on size, design and location.[23]

Public inquiry

The inspector David Morgan BA MA MRTPI IHBC ran the inquiry from 6 October to 13 November 2020.[24] Due to the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, the inquiry was held as a virtual event; main parties and participants were invited to join via Microsoft Teams or Telephone. The inspector's report will be drafted and submitted to the Secretary of State on or before 30 April 2021. All inquiry documents are available at

On July 29, 2021 it was announced that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government's (MHCLG) had ruled in favour of the Memorial going ahead. Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick told the BBC News Channel the memorial and learning centre would "educate and inform future generations about the horrors of the Holocaust" and that he hoped millions of people would visit it every year.[25] The Save Victoria Tower Gardens campaign group said it intended to appeal against the MHCLG decision.

Planning Statutory Review

The London Historic Parks And Gardens Trust[26] applied for a Planning Statutory Review[27] (the right to appeal the decision to build the centre in Victoria Tower Gardens). In November 2021 Mrs Justice Lieven of the High Court Queen’s Bench Division Planning Court granted them permission.[28] The appeal was granted on two grounds, firstly on a technicality regarding procedure and secondly, because "Although the Inspector did consider the IWM as an alternative location, the way that he has done so effectively places the burden on the objector to produce a 'detailed scheme', which would in practice be almost impossible to discharge."

Overturning of planning permission

In April 2022 the High Court found for The London Historic Parks And Gardens Trust and quashed the planning permission. Giving judgement, Mrs Justice Thornton said that those involved in the court case all “support the principle of a compelling memorial to the victims of the Holocaust and all those persecuted by the Nazis during those years when ‘humanity was tipped into the abyss of evil and depravity’.” The plans did not comply with a 1900 statute specifically relating to Victoria Tower Gardens, the requirements of which represented “a prohibition on using Victoria Tower Gardens as anything other than a garden open to the public”. The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said it would consider the next steps, adding: “The government remains committed to the creation of a new national memorial commemorating the victims of the Holocaust and it is disappointing – especially for Holocaust survivors – that this judgment will delay its completion.” [29][30]

Opposition and concerns

Victoria Tower Gardens is a public park along the north bank of the River Thames in London. It is adjacent to Victoria Tower, the south-western corner of the Palace of Westminster and extends southwards from the Palace to Lambeth Bridge, between Millbank and the river. Victoria Tower Gardens is a Grade II* listed park created in 1864–70 following the embankment of the Thames. It is in a Conservation Area, is partly within the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Westminster, and is designated a zone of Monument Saturation.[31]

The park holds three listed memorials, namely The Burghers of Calais, the Buxton Memorial Fountain and the Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst Memorial. The project design team intended the project to be contextualised among these other memorials,[1][32] but campaigners who oppose the destruction of parkland have objected that the Holocaust memorial is vastly different, in scale and nature, from the existing memorials.[33]

The park contains a small children's playground and often holds temporary cultural events including the light installation spectra, by Japanese artist Ryoji Ikeda, which commemorated the centenary of the start of the First World War, and outdoor film screenings. It is cherished by many as a surprisingly peaceful green space in the heart of London.[34]

The proposed construction was submitted for planning permission to Westminster City Council who would have to bear in mind their own rules on new monuments in this zone, the effect on heritage views of the Palace of Westminster and the Mayor of London's stated commitment to protect London's green spaces from development.[35] As part of the planning process, Westminster city council launched a public consultation in regards to the memorial. Many authoritative bodies replied. Several very critical comments by respected international and UK organisations resulted in widespread media coverage in the British press. The official adviser to UNESCO on World Heritage Sites, ICOMOS, objected to the Victoria Tower Gardens location saying the building would "interrupt substantially the key view of the Tower and Palace". It further says that two lines of trees may not survive the construction which "would have a massive visual impact."[36] The Royal Parks, the body that administers many public parks in the UK, said in its planning objection that it "strongly supports" the principle of the project but believes its scale and design would have "significant harmful impacts" on the "character and function" of the park.[37] The Environment Agency raised concerns that the building could compromise flood defences crucial to local businesses and homes, saying: "The proposed development is likely to adversely affect the construction and stability of the flood defence [meaning that] surrounding areas will be highly susceptible to rapid inundation." Another aspect that was brought up by tree radar is that apart from roots, there may be a chance of striking unexploded munitions from World War II during the construction process, adding complexity to creating a memorial on this site.[38] Lord Carlile, the former independent reviewer of terror laws, described the siting of the memorial on the same broad site as the Houses of Parliament as a "self-evident terrorism risk".[39]

The grassroots campaign of local residents, ‘Save Victoria Tower Gardens’ was also active in bringing public attention to the arguments against placing the memorial in the currently proposed site.[40] This campaign has launched a petition attracting over 10,000 signatures and has published letters to editors of major national newspapers.[41][16] Meanwhile, the UKHMF, which sponsors the project, has also been active in the press and in submitting consultation responses to the local council website: over 90% of responses to the consultation opposed the proposed development.[16]

The government was criticised for influencing the results of the consultation by engaging a private company, Big Ideas,[42] to communicate the planned design to the public and solicit responses to the consultation. The company focussed on contacting members of Jewish community groups, obtaining a large number of responses, all in favour of the plan in a generic manner with similar text, which the company then submitted to Westminster Council's consultation portal.[43] An answer to a Parliamentary Question from 8 October 2019 [44] showed that around £140,000 was spent by the government on private campaigning companies, in addition to its ongoing funding of the UKHMF. In November 2019, proponents of a memorial to the Transatlantic Slave Trade[45] complained that ample public funding is provided to the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation, “but not to us”.

Other UK Holocaust memorial sites

The Heritage Lottery Fund in 2018 and 2019 provided significant funding to open a Holocaust Education and Learning Centre in Huddersfield[46] and to refresh and expand the Beth Shalom Holocaust Centre in Nottinghamshire.[47]

In August 2019, the Imperial War Museum announced plans to spend over £30m on a new set of galleries over two floors at its London site covering the Holocaust and its importance in World War II. The galleries opened in 2021, replacing an existing permanent Holocaust exhibition.[48]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e "Adjaye Associates and Ron Arad Architects win UK Holocaust Memorial international design competition". UK Government website. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
  2. ^ City of Westminster. "London Parks & Gardens Trust drawings show 26.9% of the "green space" in the park will be lost".
  3. ^ a b Moore, Rowan (9 February 2019). "UK Holocaust memorial – time for a rethink". The Observer.
  4. ^ "Appeal granted against Shoah memorial". TheJC. The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 6 November 2021.
  5. ^ Harriet, Sherwood (8 April 2022). "High court quashes plan for Holocaust memorial outside UK parliament". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 April 2022.
  6. ^ "Between: THE LONDON HISTORIC PARKS AND GARDENS TRUST Claimant -and- (1) THE MINISTER OF STATE FOR HOUSING (2) WESTMINSTER CITY COUNCIL". England and Wales High Court (Administrative Court) Decisions. Retrieved 8 April 2022.
  7. ^ a b c Jenrick announces free admission to the proposed UK Holocaust Memorial
  8. ^ Lydall, Ross (15 August 2019). "Sadiq Khan says Holocaust memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens would be 'powerful statement against hatred'". Evening Standard. Retrieved 6 November 2019.
  9. ^ "Bazalgette: Holocaust Memorial Should Make a Powerful Statement". Architects' Journal. September 2016.
  10. ^ "Winning Design For London's Holocaust Memorial Revealed". Londonist. 24 October 2017.
  11. ^[bare URL]
  12. ^ Morrison, Jonathan (4 February 2019). "David Adjaye interview in The Times". The Times.
  13. ^ Aaronovitch, David (1 March 2019). "The Westminster Holocaust memorial doesn't hit me in my heart". the Times.
  14. ^ "Eight Jewish peers: Shoah memorial 'evokes neither Holocaust nor Jewish history'". The Jewish Chronicle. 2 October 2018.
  15. ^ "Westminster Holocaust memorial backed by 174 MPs and peers after opposition from Royal Parks". The Independent. 20 February 2019.
  16. ^ a b c Sleigh, Sophia (6 March 2019). "Sadiq Khan voices fears over future of Holocaust memorial at Parliament". Evening Standard. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
  17. ^ Jessel, Ella (29 April 2019). "Redesign for Adjaye and Arad's controversial Holocaust Memorial". Architects' Journal. Retrieved 29 April 2019.
  18. ^ a b "19/00114/FULL |Planning Application Documents".
  19. ^ a b Jessel, Ella (1 May 2019). "Adjaye and Arad's 'eleventh-hour' holocaust memorial redesign fails to silence critics". Architects' Journal. Retrieved 9 May 2020.
  20. ^ "Adjaye forced to alter Holocaust Memorial designs".
  21. ^ a b Architects Journal (8 August 2019). "DHolocaust Memorial tipped for rejection by Westminster council".
  22. ^ Rocker, Simon (6 November 2019). "Holocaust Memorial planning decision taken out of hands of local council". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 6 November 2019.
  23. ^ Morrison, Sean (12 February 2020). "Plans for Holocaust memorial next to Parliament voted down by Westminster Council". Evening Standard. Retrieved 6 October 2020.
  24. ^ Edwards QC, Douglas; Streeten QC, Charles (17 November 2020). "Public Inquiry into UK Holocaust Memorial Concludes". FTB Chambers. Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  25. ^ "Holocaust memorial outside Parliament to go ahead". BBC News. 29 July 2021.
  26. ^ "London Historic Parks & Gardens Trust". London Gardens Trust. Retrieved 6 November 2021.
  27. ^ "Claims for planning statutory review" (PDF). HM Courts and Tribunals Service. Retrieved 6 November 2021.
  28. ^ "Judge grants permission to appeal Westminster Holocaust memorial decision". Jewish News. Times of Israel. Retrieved 6 November 2021.
  29. ^ Harriet, Sherwood (8 April 2022). "High court quashes plan for Holocaust memorial outside UK parliament". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 April 2022.
  30. ^ "Between: THE LONDON HISTORIC PARKS AND GARDENS TRUST Claimant -and- (1) THE MINISTER OF STATE FOR HOUSING (2) WESTMINSTER CITY COUNCIL". England and Wales High Court (Administrative Court) Decisions. Retrieved 8 April 2022.
  31. ^ City of Westminster. "Statues and monuments in Westminster. Guidance for the erection of new monuments supplementary planning document" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 12 November 2017.
  32. ^ Jonathan Morrison (24 October 2017). "London Holocaust memorial design for Victoria Tower Gardens unveiled". The Times. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
  33. ^ Moore, Rowan (February 2017). "The Guardian".
  34. ^ "Hansard: Holocaust Memorial Museum debate". February 2017.
  35. ^ Mayor of London (August 2017). Greener City Fund Prospectus. London: Greater London Authority. pp. Foreword.
  36. ^ Architects' Journal (27 February 2019). "UNESCO's agency ICOMOS comments reported in Architects' Journal".
  37. ^ The Guardian (9 February 2019). "Royal Parks opposes proposal for London Holocaust memorial".
  38. ^ City of Westminster. "'Environment Agency' evidence submitted to Westminster City Council".
  39. ^ "Westminster Holocaust memorial would be 'trophy site' for terrorists". BC. 6 October 2010. Retrieved 6 October 2010.
  40. ^ "Home".
  41. ^[bare URL PDF]
  42. ^ The Times. "Consultant Big Ideas accused of 'rigging' decision on Holocaust memorial site".
  43. ^ Sugarman, Daniel (31 May 2019). "Government accused of trying to 'rig' public consultation on Westminster Holocaust Memorial plans". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 1 June 2019.
  44. ^ UK House of Commons. "'National Holocaust Memorial Centre and Learning Service:Written question - 293452".
  45. ^ BBC News (4 November 2019). "'Time running out' for London slavery memorial'". BBC News.
  46. ^ Burn, Chris (6 September 2018). "Yorkshire Holocaust survivors open £1m education centre to teach next generation about horrors they endured". Yorkshire Post. Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  47. ^ Frot, Mathilde (26 March 2019). "National Holocaust Centre and Museum secures £97,100 grant". Jewish News. Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  48. ^ Morrison, Jonathan; Burgess, Kaya (3 September 2019). "Imperial War Museum's £30m plan to show how Holocaust shaped war". The Times. Retrieved 3 September 2019.