08/04/22 High Court backs charity’s appeal against Government plan to build on a London park 

The High Court today, 08/04/22, found in favour of a small charity’s campaign to protect Westminster’s Victoria Tower Gardens public park from development.   

In February Mrs Justice Thornton heard the claim of London Historic Parks and Gardens Trust [The Trust] against the Government’s decision to grant planning permission for the UK Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in Victoria Tower Gardens, next to Parliament [the decision]. Today Mrs Justice Thornton found that the claim succeeds on the grounds that the London County Council (Improvements) Act 1900 [the 1900 Act] imposes statutory protection of the park; 

“The appropriate remedy is to quash the decision, so as to enable further consideration of the implications of the 1900 Act.   It is an Act of Parliament which specifically regulates Victoria Tower Gardens and specifies that the land must be retained for use as a public garden.“

Planning permission had been granted following a 2020 Planning Inquiry which heard detailed opposition to the proposed scheme from the Trust, the Save Victoria Tower Gardens campaign, Westminster City Council, and The Thorney Island Society. 

Although supportive of Holocaust Memorial and Learning, the Trust joins many prominent people, including those from the Jewish community, who raised concerns about the Government’s plan. The Save Victoria Tower Gardens campaign believe that this proposal is the right idea in the wrong place, and with the Trust, hopes that the High Court’s decision will lead to a new approach and protection for historic landscapes.    

Helen Monger, Director of The Trust said: “This is major boost for the protection of London parks at a time when they’ve never been more valued by the public.  

The High Court has given the government a welcome chance to reflect and re-consider the best site for a fitting Holocaust Memorial which the UK deserves, without tearing up historic protections for our parks.”   

Lucy Peck from the Save VTG campaign said: “We are pleased that planning permission for the Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in Victoria Tower Gardens has been quashed. We have argued for many years that the Government was pursuing the right idea in the wrong place. Today’s judgement sends a strong message about the protection of public parks.” 

Richard Buxton, Trust Solicitor said: “This judgment reflects what Parliament intended in 1900, when Victoria Tower Gardens was seen as something that should be “kept as a garden for the use of the public for ever.” No Government can ride roughshod over Acts of Parliament, and we trust that the Government will see the good sense of their forebears and revise their unlawful plans for this protected site.

The Court did not support the Trust’s appeal on the grounds of the heritage setting nor comment on the matter of possible alternative sites.   Ends.

Notes to editors 

  • London Historic Parks and Gardens Trust is a small charity with a big mission to champion London’s historic parks, gardens, squares and green spaces for the benefit of everyone. More details: https://londongardenstrust.org/about/
  • The Court’s full decision (and press notice) are attached. The appeal was heard 22-23/02/22

  • The attached briefing provides background, a summary of the appeal, and the many grounds on which the proposed development has raised concerns.