Victoria Tower Gardens Inquiry

Victoria Tower Gardens planning inquiry

The open space and important historic monuments of Victoria Tower Gardens, registered at Grade II, remain under threat as the proposal to site a new Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre there has been called in to a planning inquiry. The Gardens Trust wholeheartedly endorses the idea of the new Holocaust Memorial, but has serious reservations about siting it in this park, when more suitable sites exist.

Planning inquiry

The planning application to site the Holocaust Memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens was turned down unanimously by Westminster Council on 11 February. Unusually, back in November, before Westminster had made their decision, the minister announced a planning inquiry which will take place at the end of May. The Gardens Trust is working closely with the London Parks and Gardens Trust (LPGT) who have prepared a comprehensive statement of significance detailing exactly what is at risk. This can be downloaded from the LPGT web page. Its author Sally Prothero and LPGT Patron Hal Moggridge will be appearing at the inquiry on behalf of LPGT and the GT.

Gardens Trust response

The proposed scheme will have a damaging impact on many aspects of Victoria Tower Gardens, affecting its use as a park, the setting of important existing monuments and views of the adjacent Houses of Parliament, which is a World Heritage Site.

The areas of concern cited in the letter sent in response to the inquiry by Dr Marion Harney, Chair of our Conservation Committee, include:

  • the gardens are part of the setting of the Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey World Heritage Site, which they abut
  • the impact of blocking the path and vista of the Buxton memorial (listed Grade II*), erected to commemorate the 1807 Abolition of Slavery Act. The memorial is deliberately set on the axis of Dean Stanley Street, linking it to St John’s Smith Square and reinforcing the religious message of humanity.
  • the unsuitability of placing such a sombre monument next to a historically significant and much-used playground, gift of philanthropist Henry Gage Spicer; it is also proposed to reposition the memorial to Spicer’s generosity.
  • adding a monument of such size and gravity to a small green space which already has so many significant monuments. In addition to the two already mentioned, these include a statue of Emmeline Pankhurst (Grade II*) and Rodin’s sculpture The Burghers of Calais (Grade I), commemorating the bravery of six citizens during the Hundred Years War.
  • the uneasy juxtaposition of enormous 10.5m fins and tall hedging with the existing monuments, obscuring long views through the site and fundamentally changing the character of this area.
  • the effect of proposed root pruning on the London plane trees, which may result in canopy die-back, and the impact of anticipated visitor numbers on tree health.

While in principle we would like to support the project to build a Holocaust Memorial and Visitor Centre on a more suitable site, we strongly object to the current proposal for this site in Victoria Tower Gardens.

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Painswick Roccoco Gardens, the Red House, Photo © Joab Smith