Petition update


barbara weiss
London, United Kingdom

Oct 25, 2017 — Yesterday we had the announcement of the winner of the international competition for the design and construction of the Memorial and Learning centre in Victoria Tower Gardens. The promoters are going ahead gung-ho, pretending that a positive outcome of their project is beyond discussion, and that they are set to overcome every possible hurdle placed in their way.

The hurdles that face them are however MANY, and will not be easy to overcome:
1. obtaining PLANNING CONSENT is far from being a foregone conclusion, with the site for the Memorial standing smack in the middle of Westminster's Monument Saturation zone, smack in the middle of a Royal Park, and in the buffer zone of a Unesco World Heritage. Most importantly, public consultation and consultation of many consultees (statutory and not - eg Royal Parks, Historic England, Landscape Institute, Save, Victorian Society, London Parks and Gardens Trust, CPRE, local Amenity Groups etc) will no doubt generate a huge outcry - with this very successful petition being an early testimonial of just how high the level of outrage is amongst those who disagree with the current proposed location of the Learning Centre.
2. following the tragic recent events, SECURITY concerns in relation to terrorism have never been higher in the UK, and Westminster is potentially the area at highest risk of all throughout the country. While we all agree that democratic society must never give in to bullies and terrorists, a development such as the Holocaust monument and Learning Centre in this area may be seen as yet another high profile target for anti-semitic terrorism, and will only exacerbate the risk of attack. This in turn will lead to the need for yet more extreme security measures to be put in place, which in turn will contribute exponentially to altering forever the current tranquil nature of this very special and much loved oasis of peace and leisure.
3. the design development phase that is about to start will no doubt throw up all sorts of PRACTICAL DIFFICULTIES that have been hitherto ignored: practical access for all, visitors, the disabled, staff and suppliers, servicing of the building, avoidance of tree roots, protection for the general public in relation to falling down inclines and walls, flood protection; set-down points; parking - just to name a few
4. defining the CONTENT of this Learning Centre is far from clear. The IWM has more than proven that it is streets ahead in terms of what it has to offer a public that really wants to understand in depth the history, the background, the social context of the period before, during and after WW2. By comparison, the Learning Centre's brief appears to be heading it to become a "theme park" venue that relies heavily on sentiment and cliche' rather than scholarship, a stopping off point for mass tourism that will tick boxes but not change minds.

The objections to this scheme are too numerous to list here - this before one even critiques the winning design, its specific location within VTG, its impact on its context (eg protected views from Lambeth Bridge, proximity to toddlers playground etc etc).

The Save Victoria Tower Gardens Campaign would like to promise all its wonderful supporters that the battle continues, that we are prepared to work with the Holocaust Foundation to make the memorial and Learning Centre happen in the right location, but that we will not let this empty vanity project of the few go unchallenged, as long as it threatens one of London's sacred and unique parks.

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