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‘Garden Bridge is in the wrong place’ says opposition

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Opposition to Thomas Heatherwick’s proposed Garden Bridge has mounted following a petition from locals who claim the scheme should be built elsewhere

The 367m-long bridge, which will span from Queen’s Walk on the Southbank to Temple Station, has been criticised for being ‘in the wrong place’.

A petition, launched by campaign group Thames Central Open Space, has already amassed more than 400 signatures.

According to the petition the £175 million tree-lined bridge, masterminded by Heatherwick Studio, Dan Pearson and Arup, would have a ‘devastating impact on the river’s ecosystem’ and would put pressure on the already busy Southbank.

The group has said the bridge could bring up to 7 million visitors to the Southbank each year.

Wai-King Cheung, spokesperson for opposition group Thames Central Open Space, said: ‘We are speaking to councillors this week after much silence from them and would like to ask the planners to stop the project from being constructed on the Southbank.

‘If the private funds only were to be used for another such crossing in an area where it is needed, then we would have no problem with that given local residents considerations. However, zone one in central London - one of the richest areas in the UK - is simply not that place for this bridge.’

James MacColl, head of campaigns at the Campaign for Better Transport, said the group was sceptical about the viability of the bridge as a transport project.

He said: ‘How is it going to connect either side and how will footfall either side be linked with pavements, paths, bus stops and tube stations?

‘If you are using transport arguments for the bridge, is this the best place for having a bridge?’

MacColl added that far from aiding pedestrian movement, the bridge – which is partly billed as a tourist attraction – could actually do the opposite in such a busy part of the capital.

‘It will have to be very carefully planned to avoid causing congestion,’ he said.

Bridge designer Martin Knight also commented: ‘Whilst investment in improved public transport links across the river is to be applauded, this figure is around seven times that of the London Millennium Bridge and, in purely transport terms, there is much better value to be gained in supporting multiple upgraded and new river crossings in a variety of locations, including the footbridge proposed between Pimlico and Nine Elms (estimated by TfL to cost £40 million) and the Gallions Reach bridge.’

Despite being in support of a green bridge across the Thames, environmental group Friends of the Earth has urged the Mayor, who has backed the bridge with £30 million of public money, to look at bridges for East London.

Friends of the Earth London campaigner Jenny Bates, said: ‘A green pedestrian bridge across the Thames would be a major asset to London – but local concerns must be properly addressed.

‘The Mayor should also look at pedestrian and cycling only bridges for East London, as part of a package of clean, green alternatives to the road-crossings currently proposed.’

An objector to the planning application agreed: ‘It is too expensive and in the wrong place, a (possibly pedestrian) bridge in East London for instance between Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf is much more needed. There are already plenty of crossings around the south bank.’

While, Ben Rogers of Centre for London, said that despite being in support of the bridge, there was little need for it.

‘It will be a great addition to London’s public realm and boost London economy by attracting tourists. I accept there is no strategic need for it, in terms of connectivity but I think it is in keeping with best of London urban design’, he said.

There are currently nine bridges spanning the Thames within the two miles between Westminster and London Bridge.

Writing in the Evening Standard, Andrew Adonis, said there is a shortage of bridges east of Tower Bridge.

He said: ‘[Developing the East Thames] will happen only if it is possible to cross the Thames without relying just on the Blackwall and Rotherhithe tunnels, plus a cable car between North Greenwich and the Royal Docks which carries fewer passengers in a week than a bridge or tunnel would carry in 10 minutes.’

‘It is time to decide — and then build. London will not expand successfully to the East until the Thames can be crossed as easily there as it is in the West.’

In December last year, £30 million of government funding was announced for the bridge as part of the National Infrastructure Plan (AJ 06.12.13).

Concerns had already been raised over the visual impact of the bridge by the City of London, who were worried about its impact on St Paul’s Cathedral, Monument, and the City. As a result Transport for London (TfL) drew up amended imagery in an attempt to allay concerns (AJ 15.10.14).

Defending the scheme, Bee Emmott, the executive director at the Garden Bridge Trust said: ‘There is huge support for the Garden Bridge both locally and all across London. In the original consultation 87 per cent of respondents were in support of the bridge, and recent feedback at subsequent events showed more than 92 per cent of local respondents support the proposals. 

‘Of course there will be some impact at the South Bank landing although this will be more than compensated by the significant benefits of the Garden Bridge.’

Emmot added: ‘The Garden Bridge will create 6,000m² – similar in size to a football pitch – of new gardens. It will be planted with around 270 trees as well as flowering shrubs, herbaceous plants and grasses providing an elevated urban park and promenade in the heart of London.     

‘The Garden Bridge will also support local economic growth, deliver jobs and bring huge educational and volunteering opportunities for local people.’

A planning decision is set to be made on the bridge later this year. If approved, the project is expected to complete in 2017.

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