Free from fear or favour
No tracking. No cookies

Turmoil Continues Over Government’s Flagship National Holocaust Memorial

Overspending and legal wrangling is causing concerns over the £100 million commemoration, reports David Hencke

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove. Photo: ZUMA Press/Alamy

Turmoil Continues Over Government’s Flagship National Holocaust Memorial

Overspending and legal wrangling is causing concerns over the £100 million commemoration, reports David Hencke

Newsletter offer

Subscribe to our newsletter for exclusive editorial emails from the Byline Times Team.

The scheme for an iconic National Holocaust Memorial to be constructed next to Parliament is being mismanaged by Michael Gove’s Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, an investigation by the National Audit Office (NAO) has revealed.

The £100 million memorial to be situated in Victoria Tower Gardens has already seen initial project costs rise, a delay of at least a year, while the department has failed to recruit suitably qualified people to lead the programme.

The idea for a National Holocaust Memorial was announced by the then Prime Minister David Cameron in 2015 and was widely welcomed by more than 170 MPs and peers at the time. An award winning Ghanaian-British architect, Sir David Adjaye, won the competition to design the memorial, which included a sculpture of 23 bronze fins leading visitors to an underground learning centre.

Cameron committed £50 million to build the centre with £25 million coming from private donations. The Government’s contribution has now risen to £75 million and according to the NAO’s report is likely to rise much further due to inflation in the construction industry.

The investigation has been prompted by a group of MPs, who approached the NAO privately, expressing concern about how Whitehall was managing the project.

Private Consultancy Set to ReceiveMore ‘Towns Fund’ Spending than Mansfield

Sam Bright

The scheme has already been consumed by a row over where it was going to be sited in Westminster. Westminster Council refused to approve planning permission in Victoria Tower Gardens but was overruled by Chris Pincher, the then Planning Minister.

Opponents – who included the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams – took their case to court, succeeding in April. The court action and opposition from Westminster Council has delayed any start on the memorial by at least a year.

Richard Drabble QC, acting for London Historic Parks and Gardens Trust, argued at the hearing that the memorial did not comply with a 1900 legal act prohibiting Victoria Tower Gardens to be used as anything other than a garden open to the public. He also argued that the development would negatively impact other monuments in the park, harm trees and pose a flood risk.

The ruling said that the trust’s case had succeeded in relation to its arguments over the 1900 law, which “imposes an enduring obligation” to retain the land as a public garden, the judge said.

The ministry is now appealing the judgement. The NAO report claims that the department is so firm in its belief that it will win the case, that it hasn’t assessed any other sites.

“The department still considers the choice of Victoria Tower Gardens intrinsic to the Memorial and Learning Centre,” the report states. “It has decided not to develop a ‘plan B’ for an alternative location should the planning application be ultimately unsuccessful. It told us that changing to a different location would result in needing to start many aspects of the programme from scratch”.

Writing in the Jewish Chronicle earlier this week, Levelling Up Minister Kemi Badenoch said that: “The Holocaust, which saw the murder of six million Jewish men, women and children, provides a stark reminder of where hatred and intolerance can lead. It is only by remembering this history, that we can build a better future.”

She said that the Government is building the proposed Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre “to ensure that what happened in the Holocaust… is never forgotten”, adding that Britain owes it “not just to Holocaust survivors, but to the British people now and for generations to come”.

Written by

This article was filed under
, , ,