The London Assembly has called on the mayor Boris Johnson to withdraw public funding for the proposed Garden Bridge and launch a full inquiry into how it was procured
The Assembly passed a motion earlier today (3 June) by eleven votes to three for a full audit of the procurement process for Thomas Heatherwick’s controversial £175million bridge across the Thames.
Members also moved for the removal of Transport for London’s (TfL) funding for the project, claiming the link would ‘serve no transport function’.
The vote comes as campaigners against the Garden Bridge claim to have won a victory by getting the land earmarked for where bridge’s landing site on the south bank as an Asset of Community Value.
Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon, who proposed the motion in the London Assembly, said: ‘There are many locations along the Thames, from Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf, where there is a far more pressing need for a bridge serving pedestrians and cyclists than the site of the Garden Bridge.
‘If the objective of the Garden Bridge is to improve London’s public spaces then it is folly to cut down more than 30 mature trees and reduce much valued open space on the south bank. £60 million of public funding could be far better spent improving numerous parks and open spaces across the capital.
“At the same time it is vital that an independent audit is carried out looking into the whole procurement process as there are serious questions about how the design contract was awarded.’
The Assembly motion comes as Lambeth Council approved a request by local resident and vocal opponent of the Garden Bridge, Michael Ball, to designate the land on the south side of the Thames as an Asset of Community Value.
The new measures make it more difficult for the Garden Bridge Trust to acquire the plot to use for the project.
In a statement Lambeth confirmed that the land had been ‘delineated in the plan attached to the nomination, complies with the criteria set out by the Localism Act 2011 and the property is now registered as an Asset of Community Value’.
Speaking about the development Ball said: ‘I launched a judicial review because the Garden Bridge is misconceived and strongly opposed by a wide range of people and interests. It is only because of the legal proceedings that the Garden Bridge Trust has agreed to provide a guarantee. This is recognised by the fact that Lambeth Council have agreed to pay all of our legal costs.
‘The Garden Bridge Trust are £50m short already on the money they need to be able to build the bridge. It seems likely therefore that they will have great difficulty getting a private supporter to put an additional £90m on the line. £60m of public funding has already been committed, in this age of austerity, to what was supposed to be a private bridge, and Boris Johnson has ruled out any more public subsidies. We will keep this under close scrutiny, and will be ready to go back to Court if necessary’.
The latest developments come weeks after leading architects joined with politicians, walking and cycling campaigners and gardeners in voicing their opposition to the Garden Bridge which is the brainchild of Joanna Lumley.
In a public meeting held in May and attended by over 200 people Green Party leader Natalie Bennett criticised the Garden Bridge as ‘greenwash’ and said £60million could be spent on creating larger areas of urban green space. Speaking at the same event Labour candidate for London Mayor Christian Wolmar said a ‘dishonest’ business case had been made for the scheme.
The full London Assembly Motion
This Assembly notes with concern the many objections to the proposed Garden Bridge from a wide variety of individuals and organisations, from the Taxpayers’ Alliance to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Objections have been raised over: the proximity to other crossings, the blocking of historic views of the Thames, the procurement process, the lack of cycling provision, the lack of a guaranteed right of way or step free access, the loss of over 30 mature trees on the South Bank, and the GLA underwriting ongoing maintenance costs running into millions.
This Assembly believes that, with no cycling provision or guaranteed public right of way and given the proximity to other bridges, the project serves no transport function, and it is therefore inappropriate that £30 million of Transport for London money has been committed to it.
This Assembly further believes that the public money earmarked for the project would be much better allocated to pedestrian/cycle river crossings where there is a genuine transport need, such as the proposed Brunel Bridge at Rotherhithe/Canary Wharf, or spent creating and improving green public spaces in other parts of the city.
This Assembly therefore calls on the Mayor to agree to a full, independent audit of the procurement process, and to withdraw TfL funds from the project.