The decision to grant planning permission for a Holocaust Memorial on Victoria Tower Gardens (VTG) next to the Houses of Parliament has been quashed by a High Court judge, Mrs Justice Thornton. London Gardens Trust had brought the appeal against the planning decision.
The judge decided that the status of VTG is protected by the terms of the London County Council (Improvements) Act 1900. In essence, she held that Section 8 of the Act imposes an enduring obligation to lay out and retain it as a public garden, and that this issue had not been properly considered by the Inspector at the planning inquiry. Accordingly, the judge quashed the decision to grant planning permission for the development.
London Gardens Trust (LTG) and fellow campaigners have long contended that the provision of a Holocaust Memorial and Education Centre was ‘the right idea but in the wrong place’. As a result of Mrs Justice Thornton’s decision, the Government will now be obliged to reconsider how to honour the commitment to create a memorial within the lives of survivors of the Holocaust.
Helen Monger, director of LGT, welcomed the decision, saying ‘This is a 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’.
Barbara Weiss of the campaign group, Save Victoria Tower Gardens, said ‘We have argued for many years that the Government is pursuing the right idea in the wrong place. Today’s judgment sends a strong message about the protection of public parks’.
Peter Hughes QC, Chair of the Gardens Trust, said ‘Through a careful and detailed analysis of the terms of the 1900 Act of Parliament, and its legislative history, Mrs Justice Thornton has established the protection afforded to Victoria Tower Gardens as an open space for public enjoyment. Her decision reinforces the importance of respecting the reasons why public parks and open spaces were created, in this case fortunately safeguarded by legislation. The Government should now accept that VTG is the wrong site. It should give urgent consideration to identifying alternative means to meet its commitment to establish a Holocaust memorial.’