Packed meeting in Waterloo hears from objectors ranging from architects and cycling campaigners to the Tax Payers’ Alliance
Leading architects joined with politicians, walking and cycling campaigners and gardeners in voicing their opposition to the Garden Bridge at a public meeting last night.
An audience of more than 200 people gathered at St John’s Church in Waterloo to hear the views of a wide spectrum of critics ranging from Labour politicians and Green Party leader Natalie Bennett to the Tax Payers’ Alliance.
Leading bridge designers Alistair Lenczner and Cezary Bednarski both delivered speeches while a letter from Ian Ritchie was read out which also argued strongly against the £175m Heatherwick Studio-designed scheme.
Lenczner, who was the in-house engineer on the world-famous Millau Viaduct while a partner at Foster & Partners and now works at Expedition Engineering, called the Garden Bridge a ‘private garden platform pretending to be a bridge’.
He said that good projects should begin with a need and then a brief followed by an open competition but said the Garden Bridge was different.
He said: ‘We seem to have ended up with a design which has had a need and a brief retrofitted onto it’, adding that good engineering should have made the scheme slimmer, cheaper and more efficient.
Bednarski, a leading bridge designer who has also judged several RIBA bridge competitions, questioned why Heatherwick Studio was selected for the 2013 competition run by Transport for London even though Heatherwick was not on any of its framework panels.
He added: ‘This student [Heatherwick] should go back to the drawing board because this project fails on every count.’
This project fails on every count
Chair of the London Cycling Campaign, Ann Kendrick, said the group was ‘extremely concerned’ by the lack of cycling provision on the Garden Bridge given its £60m of public funding.
She said: ‘It would be appalling for so much public money to be spent at this time on a new river crossing which excludes cyclists. This project does not seem to have been thought through. By 2030, we will have 10m people in London and there will have been a massive increase in the numbers of people on bikes.’
Natalie Bennett described the Garden Bridge as ‘greenwash’ and said £60m could be spent on creating larger areas of urban green space while Labour candidate for London Mayor Christian Wolmar said a ‘dishonest’ business case had been made for the scheme.
A Garden Bridge Trust spokesperson said: ‘The Garden Bridge is designed to offer pedestrians a new, very special, and free, route across the River Thames. It will provide a unique green corridor between two bustling areas of the capital, with thousands of new plants and trees providing real environmental benefits, as well as new views of a city and river that is always changing.
‘Independent bodies have conducted, and validated, extensive crowd modelling studies to ensure that numbers of pedestrians can be safely accommodated. We are determined that the Garden Bridge will show off the best of British engineering and innovation, with Olympic Cauldron designer Thomas Heatherwick in charge of design and award-winning landscape designer Dan Pearson the gardens.
‘A robust business plan is in place to ensure the bridge is self-funded once completed, and can remain a special place for Londoners to use for generations to come.’
Other speakers at the event included heritage campaigner Gavin Stamp, ‘Guerilla Gardener’ Richard Reynolds, president of the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association Hugh Johnson, chief executive of the Tax Payers’ Alliance Jonathan Isaby, head of the Waterloo Community Development Group Michael Ball, London Assembly Labour group leader Val Shawcross and Lib Dem leader Caroline Pidgeon. The meeting was organised by campaign group Thames Central Open Spaces, which is backing Michael Ball’s judicial review challenge to the Garden Bridge.