The Court of Appeal has today, 21 July, refused ministers permission to try to overturn The High Court’s ruling that building the Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre (HMLC) in a park protected in perpetuity for public enjoyment would be unlawful.
The legal dispute arises from the London Historic Parks and Gardens Trust’s campaign to protect all London parks from development, while supporting a Holocaust Memorial and a learning centre in a fitting venue.
The case centred on the 2019 decision of former Housing Minister Chris Pincher MP (suspended Con) to grant planning permission to build the centre in Victoria Tower Gardens next to Parliament, despite objections from some members of the Jewish community, Holocaust survivors, the local authority, campaigners, cross party Peers, a former Archbishop of Canterbury and a historic obligation in law to preserve this park for public enjoyment.
In a case brought by the London Historic Parks and Gardens Trust (the Trust), the High Court over turned Mr Pincher’s permission on the grounds of this legal protection in April. Since then, concerns about the scheme, including the lack of work to find a suitable alternative site, have been raised by the National Audit Office spending watchdog.
The Trust and campaigners including the Thorney Island Society and ‘Save Victoria Tower Gardens’ support a fitting Holocaust Memorial, education and a Learning centre. But they have described the current plan in a small, protected park as ‘the right idea in the wrong place’, especially considering the scope for other sites to do a fitting education centre justice.
A spokesperson for the Trust said:
“We share widespread dismay that in deciding to build on a protected park, the government pursued this noble cause via an illegal path. Had a more suitable site been chosen, a Holocaust education centre would already be doing its essential work. City parks are not a blank canvass waiting for development but greenspaces protected for public enjoyment so we sincerely hope that revised plans for a memorial near to Parliament can co-exist with a substantial education centre in a more suitable setting.”
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