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The southern part of Victoria Tower Gardens is where there are suggested plans for Holocaust memorial and center.(Photo by: WIKIMEDIA)
Terror assessment report warns of attack risk at planned Holocaust memorial
By ILANIT CHERNICK
08/21/2019
The high-profile Jewish focused building would be a “high value” target for attacks because of its proximity both to Parliament and MI5.
A report released by a senior counter-terrorism expert has exposed serious risks in the Government’s plans to build a Holocaust Center Victoria Tower Gardens.

In the report, dubbed the Tudway Report, former detective chief superintendent Adrian Tudway, who was the Association of Chief Police Officers national co-coordinator for domestic extremism, has said that the proposal to site the Holocaust Memorial and Learning Center within Victoria Tower Gardens would create a “perfect storm” of terrorism risks.

The report explains that the high-profile Jewish focused building would be a “high value” target for attacks because of its proximity both to Parliament and MI5, and because it lacks the same security measures it would be a “softer target.”

“The adjacent Parliamentary estate is protected by armed police patrols and significant security measures; Victoria Tower Gardens is not and will not be,” Tudway explains in the report explains. “This makes    Victoria Tower Gardens a softer target for extremists than the Parliamentary estate or the Security Service building to the immediate South of Victoria Tower Gardens.”

This report also highlights how the attractiveness to extremists “is exacerbated by the world’s media having a front row seat through the TV facilities” as it would be opposite the BBC, ITV and Sky News TV studios, “which would guarantee terrorists the coverage they crave.”

The building is expected to attract up to 10,000 visitors a day, and “although it will not be a place of worship, it would be seen as a high value target because of its clear links to the Jewish faith.”

The report also stressed that an attack such a as “a suicide vehicle borne improvised explosive device or marauding close quarters attack could easily be mounted on this location,” or even an IED attack, which Tudway said would be “just as attractive.”

There are also several reasons why the Holocaust Memorial at the gardens would be hard to protect including the fact that government’s plan “is for open access to the public immediately next to the entrance slope, and that “the road boundary of the narrow park” is just “yards away.”

The report also highlights that proposed “20-second security checks at the point of entry cannot hope to act as    a deterrent to any such extremist concealing a weapon, nor give security staff a chance of engaging with a person presenting an overt threat.”

Tudway also explained that “given the challenges of creating stronger physical protection, the only effective response for the authorities would be to restrict access to more of the park for people who have not been through security checks.

“The park currently sees about 1.5 million visitors a year,” Tudway added.

Since its proposal in 2015, there has been major backlash about the Holocaust Memorial and Learning Center plans as the gardens are a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) heritage site and there are fears it will "interrupt substantially the key view of the Tower and Palace," detract from how its experienced, and also have an environmental impact that includes concerns over two lines of trees may not survive the construction which "would have a massive visual impact."

Advisers to UNESCO, the Environment Agency, and the Royal Parks have shared their concerns over the matter, and there have also been petitions circulated and other attempts to halt the plans.

However, las week, London Mayor Sadiq Khan called on the Westminster Council to support the construction of a national Holocaust education and memorial center in the southern part of the city’s Victoria Tower Gardens.

In a letter to the Westminster Council, Khan said that the Holocaust center “will show our commitment to fighting extremism and intolerance in all forms,” stressing that it will “make a powerful national statement about our democracy and its values, reminding us what can happen when hatred is left unchecked.

“As we see the scourge of antisemitism and hate crime increasing across our country, now more than ever we need a National Holocaust Memorial, so we can learn the lessons from history, as well as pay tribute to the victims of the Nazi genocide,” he wrote. “I have previously expressed my fear however that these plans would be rejected. Westminster City Council must follow the proper consultation process for this planning application and show transparency by fully explaining how it reached its decision.

“I therefore urge Westminster City Council not to reject these plans and instead enable this hugely important national Memorial to take its rightful place in the heart of the capital and close to the seat of national government,” Khan added.

Earlier this month, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, as well as several other religious leaders, wrote a letter that “memory comes from experience and education.

“Experience is deepened by symbolism,” he wrote. “The symbolism of this center, right next to the home of our democracy is profound and hugely powerful. [It is] a priority for the Government and our Prime Minister [Boris Johnson]... I am determined to see it delivered.”

In the letter, Welby also highlighted that the center will preserve “the memory of the thin line, which distinguishes us from the atrocities of the past.”

Religious leaders from the Jewish, Christian and Muslim sector have stressed that building the Holocaust educational center “sends a strong and unequivocal message to all people that Britain must be a country committed to supporting tolerance,” adding that they are “deeply saddened” about the continued “rise of outspoken intolerance, racism and hate crimes.”

The memorial and education center is set to cost around £102 million and has the support of the UK government. Millions of public funds are also set to be used for the building of the memorial.
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