The government is changing planning law with the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act 2023. Alongside the Act, it has proposed changes to planning regulations.
Documents to download
Holocaust Memorial Bill (1 MB , PDF)
The Holocaust Memorial Bill 2022-23 would remove restrictions on building a Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in Victoria Tower Gardens next to Parliament. The Bill would also give the Government powers to use public funds to build and operate the Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre.
The Bill is a hybrid bill according to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills.
Second reading of the Holocaust Memorial Bill is scheduled for Wednesday, 28 June 2023.
Background: Holocaust Commission
The Holocaust Commission was launched by the then Prime Minister David Cameron in 2014 to assess whether measures were needed to preserve the memory of the Holocaust. In its 2015 report, the commission recommended the creation of a “striking and prominent new National Memorial” (PDF) which should be “co-located with a world-class Learning Centre”.
In January 2016, the Government announced the memorial would be located in Victoria Tower Gardens, a Grade II listed green space next to Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster. The decision to co-locate the learning centre with the memorial was taken by the Government in September 2016.
Differing views on the location of the memorial
There are differing views on the location of the memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens, although “the principle of a compelling memorial to the victims of the Holocaust and all those persecuted by the Nazis” has general support.
Those in favour of locating the memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens include the UCL Centre for Holocaust Education and the Board of Deputies of British Jews. They said this location in a “prime place of prominence” (PDF) had the “potential to transform how people understand and reflect on this history”.
Others, such as the London Historic Parks and Gardens Trust and the Thorney Island Society, a local amenity society, objected to locating the memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens. They expressed concern about its impact on the other memorials in the Gardens and on the Gardens, Grade II listed park. They also said the project could affect public access to the park (PDF).
Getting planning consent
In January 2019, the Government submitted a planning application to build the Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre to the local planning authority, Westminster City Council. In November 2019, the then Housing Minister “called-in” the planning application for their own determination.
Following a public inquiry led by a Planning Inspector, in July 2021, the then Housing and Planning Minister gave permission to build the Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in Victoria Tower Gardens (PDF). The Inspector had found that the public benefits of the scheme, including its location next to Parliament, outweighed the potential harm it may cause to heritage assets.
The Planning Inspector had also considered alternative sites, including the Imperial War Museum, but noted that these sites lacked a detailed scheme.
Judicial challenge to planning permission
The London Historic Parks and Gardens Trust challenged the planning decision in the High Court on procedural grounds, and the decision was quashed in April 2022.
The judge found that the London County Council (Improvements) Act 1900 required Victoria Tower Gardens to be “laid out and maintained … for use as a garden open to the public”. The 1900 Act was therefore an obstacle to the construction of the Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in the Gardens.
The Holocaust Memorial Bill 2022-23 would disapply sections 8(1) and 8(8) of the London County Council (Improvements) Act 1900. The 1900 Act would therefore not pose an obstacle to locating the memorial and the learning centre in Victoria Tower Gardens. Planning consent would still be required.
The Bill would also give the Government powers to use public funds to build, operate and improve the memorial and learning centre.
A hybrid bill
The process by which a bill proceeds through Parliament differs depending on whether it is a public bill, a private bill or a hybrid bill.
The Holocaust Memorial Bill 2022-23, when first introduced, was designated as “prima facie hybrid” by the House of Commons Clerk of Legislation and was therefore referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills. The Government sought to argue, unsuccessfully, that the Bill was not hybrid, and that it should proceed as normal through public bill procedure.
The examiners, in a decision published on 22 May 2023 (PDF), disagreed with the Government’s position on hybridity. They concluded that the Bill would have a “much greater adverse effect on the private interests of local residents” and that, therefore, it was a hybrid bill.
This decision meant that certain House of Commons private business standing orders would apply to the Bill, with which the Government had not complied. This included various notice periods and requirements to deposit certain documents. The Standing Orders Committee therefore had to decide whether to vary or dispense with these requirements. On 13 June 2023, the committee heard evidence and then decided to dispense with six private standing orders that would otherwise have applied to the Bill (PDF). This allowed the Government to proceed to second reading.
The Holocaust Memorial Bill 2022-23 would remove the 1900 Act as an obstacle to building the Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in the Victoria Tower Gardens. Planning consent would still be required.
As the planning decision was quashed by the High Court, the relevant minister in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) would need to re-take their planning decision. Another planning application to Westminster City Council would not be required.
Any changes to legislation that were made since the planning decision was made, such as the Holocaust Memorial Bill, would be taken into account.
The Government said “strict” decision-making arrangements were in place in DLUHC to ensure a “functional separation” between those who brought forward the proposal and those making a decision on it.
Documents to download
Holocaust Memorial Bill (1 MB , PDF)
A Westminster Hall debate has been scheduled for Thursday 16 November 2023 on heritage pubs. The debate will be opened by Marco Longhi MP.
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