CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Groups object to Holocaust memorial next to Parliament

Public park will be transformed by underground education centre and major memorial, residents say

28 July, 2017 — By Alina Polianskaya

One of the design proposals for the new memorial [Photo: Malcolm Reading Consultants/Emily Whitfield-Wicks]

A HOLOCAUST memorial and underground education centre will transform a popular public park into a “no-go area”, campaigners have warned.

More than 1,200 people have signed a petition against the proposed National Holocaust Memorial and Education Centre, in Victoria Tower Gardens.

A subterranean centre underneath the park, next to the Houses of Parliament, would cause unacceptable overcrowding, increase traffic and cause a security concern, they say.

Barbara Weiss, who launched a petition about the plans, said: “Each and every one of the designs is very disruptive. You can’t build underground without having lifts, staircases and all sorts of emergency exits. There will be a huge issue with security as it is a very contentious memorial and we are right at the heart of an area that is already under great security scrutiny. It will turn the park, which is much loved, into something of a no-go area.”

She added: “Everybody is completely on board with the content of the memorial. What we have is a major problem with is the location. Victoria Tower Gardens is one of London’s best-kept secrets. It is a very beautiful park next to parliament. Our feeling is that London’s parks should be completely off bounds. There are other sites available.”

Lucy Peck, from The Thorney Island Society, said: “We are sure that if there is a memorial and a learning centre is built, that is going to completely change the character of the park. There will be security issues. Where will they have security checks? At the entrance to building or at the entrance to park?”

St James’s ward councillor Tim Mitchell said: “There is a particular concern that it will mean a large number of visitors, particularly schoolchildren visiting the park, which at the moment is a space that is enjoyed by people who live in and work in the area for rest and relaxation.”

A design contest was launched in 2016 to find an architect to create the memorial and a number of projects have been shortlisted. Organisers say there is widespread dissatisfaction with a current memorial in Hyde Park, and worrying gaps in young people’s knowledge and understanding about the Holocaust.

A spokesman for the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation said: “We want to work closely with local residents on this project when we appoint a design team later this year. Victoria Tower Gardens is an iconic location and the new Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre will stand next to parliament as the ultimate reminder of what can happen if hatred is left unchecked and the foundations of society are undermined. The park will remain accessible to the general public.”

A Royal Parks spokesman said: “The government has committed to providing a national memorial to honour victims and survivors of the Holocaust and we are currently in discussions with the Cabinet Office about plans for this project. While there are no specific plans at present, the Royal Parks supports the idea of a new memorial as a fitting tribute.”

See the full shortlist at: https://competitions.malcolmreading.co.uk/holocaustmemorial/#shortlist

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