Holocaust Memorial Decisions to Get Judicial Review

FRIDAY, JULY 17, 2020

A judicial review will now take place regarding United Kingdom Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick and his handling of London’s proposed Holocaust Memorial.

The London Garden Trust applied for a review of Jenrick’s decision to allow his junior colleague, Housing Minister Christopher Pincher, to make the final decision on the application, which has been riddled with drama since its inception in 2017.

Project Background

The team of David Adjaye (Adjaye Associates) and Ron Arad Architects was selected to design the memorial in October 2017 after the United Kington launched an international design competition that saw 92 entries.

According to officials, the 13-person jury chose the Adjaye project unanimously.

The original design featured 23 tall bronze fins with the 22 spaces in between them representing the 22 countries in which Jewish communities were devastated during the Holocaust.

But since then, the design has been met with strong criticism about its location, size and overall appearance.

Adjaye spoke to The Times about the location critique, noting that there are already two memorials in the park and stressing the importance of having the monument near Parliament.

Groups opposed to the decision, including the city’s Royal Parks Authority, claim that it will disrupt the garden.

In May 2019, design changes were made to the memorial. While the overall design with the bronze fins remains intact, a few tweaks have been made to give the outer appearance some subtlety.

The revised design includes:

  • Changes to the entrance, making it lighter and more transparent;
  • Changes to the roofline to ensure better views across and around the structure; and
  • Changes to the courtyard to make the space more intuitive and inclusive.

The revisions reportedly also adjust construction and excavation to improve logistics on the site.

The monument originally had an estimated completion date of 2021, with a 100-million-pound (roughly $130 million) backing from the government.

In August, London Mayor Sadiq Kahn called on the Westminster City Council to approve the plans, which came a week after documents were uncovered that showed U.K. Holocaust Memorial Foundation co-chairs expressing misgivings about the planning process.

Moreover, some objectors to the memorial called the mayor’s words an interference of the democratic process.

Meanwhile, the Foundation co-chairs had written to the council looking at the weight that’s being given to the number of objections to the project—though, the project has also reportedly received thousands of comments in support.

Westminster Council leader Nickie Aiken had responded at the time saying that the application seemed to be heading to an “unfavorable recommendation.”

About two months after that comment, in November, the government decided that then-Housing Minister Esther McVey would decide whether plans for the memorial will move forward or not, not the Westminster council.

While the U.K. Holocaust Memorial Foundation asked for the move, others called the decision to put the scheme up for federal decision a “power grab” as the announcement was made close to Parliament’s general election, which took place in December.

That decision put into motion the public inquiry, which is still slated to be held and overseen by an independent planning inspector, which is then supposed to be reviewed by the Housing Secretary, who will make the final call on the project.

The London Garden Trust applied for a review of Jenrick’s decision to allow his junior colleague, Housing Minister Christopher Pincher, to make the final decision on the application, which has been riddled with drama since its inception in 2017.

Westminster City Council confirmed its position of officially opposing the Memorial in February.

According to the Architect’s Journal, Jenrick’s call-in for the application happened within a month of him meeting with U.K. Holocaust Memorial Foundation board members, sparking more thoughts on “less than impartial behavior.”

Under planning rules, the housing secretary has a judicial role and is supposed to act “fairly and even-handedly.”

Jenrick has, in fact, recused himself from the ruling, however, which means that the final determination for the project falls to Pincher, the objectivity of whom is being called into question now.

The Planning Inspectorate has agreed it will sit for 16 days, sometime between Oct. 6 and Nov. 13.

What Now

Campaigners are concerned that Pincher will be able to remain neutral on the application.

“The issue for the High Court is whether Pincher, the decision-maker, is lawfully insulated from his boss Jenrick, who has applied for planning permission: we don’t think so,” said solicitor Richard Buxton, who represents the London Gardens Trust.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government declined to speak on the proceedings but instead reiterated policy, saying: “All planning decisions taken by ministers are taken in line with published propriety guidance, which states that planning decisions must be made solely on the basis of valid planning matters.

“A public inquiry will be held and overseen by an independent planning inspector. The Housing Minister will make the final decision on the application taking into account the inspector’s recommendation.”


Tagged categories: Color + Design; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); EU; Government; Lawsuits; Public spaces; Regulations

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